September 16, 2019

Counting Deer: Count Bucks, It’s Kind of the Best Way…Sort of…Maybe

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When NPR asked a New Hampshire deer biologist how they went about guessing how many deer the state had, the answer was…well, it was…actually, I don’t know what the hell it was. But the response went like this:

For deer, this is the two-year running average of the adult buck-kill. That’s kind of what we use as an index to the trend in the population. That’s kind of the best index we have.

And that’s it? Go figure. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong but I have a strong suspicion that deer hunting in New Hampshire, and probably Maine and Vermont, generate the most income in order to fund each state’s fish and (no game, just) wildlife departments. And, this is the best explanation a deer biologist from New Hampshire could come up with to explain how counting deer is done.

Is it important to know how many deer each state has? Geez! I would think so. If you don’t know, how do you know how many deer should be killed each year? Is this one of the reasons deer populations in Northern New England are struggling? Maybe. Ask any biologist though and they’ll probably say it’s being caused by global warming. But let’s not get into that.

One might conclude that New Hampshire’s “model” of guessing is pretty pathetic. What it sounds to me that they do, is count the number of adult bucks harvested during the hunting season for two consecutive years. They use that data to somehow wave a magic wand and then after repeating the “magic” incantations, guess how many deer there are. That’s sad…isn’t it?

If you think that’s sad, then how damned sad is it when a state can’t even count to know how many adult buck deer were taken during a deer hunting season? That’s beyond sad. It’s down right pathetic.

As of this morning, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), has not posted on their website the harvest numbers from last November’s deer hunting season. God, we’ve all been down this road so many times, but nothing ever changes.

Some have asked me what difference does it make? I think it makes a lot of difference. Seriously, do I need to explain why? But forget what I think or whether you care. If Maine uses anything like New Hampshire’s methods, and they count adult buck deer killed to guesstimate deer populations, how can they responsibly manage deer – like how many “Any-Deer Permits” to issue if they can’t count deer?

So, I can only guess what is going on. Either MDIFW is terrible at managing deer or they won’t release the deer harvest numbers because they are hiding something. What else could it be? And, as an aside, MDIFW hasn’t posted the bear harvest data either.

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

ToilandTrouble

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