January 16, 2018

Playing With Maine’s Big Bucks…Numbers That Is

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I recently wrote an article for a local newspaper in Maine, The Bethel Citizen, about how “Statistics Prove that Statistics Can Prove Anything.” That article didn’t have room for all, or even any, of the graphs and charts I’ve been collecting about Maine’s “Big Bucks,” i.e. those bucks weighing in excess of 200 lbs and those registered with the magazine Maine Sportsman.

If you examine the chart below, you will see in the left column the years 1999 through 2016. Please note that the total deer kill for 2016 is an estimate because the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has not released data as of this writing.

For Big Buck comparisons, focus your attention on the column that shows the % of Big Bucks as to the total deer harvest. This chart might tell us that not only has the number of Big Bucks killed over the past 16 or so years decreased but something worth paying attention to is that the % of Big Bucks to the total harvest has not remained steady. Logic should force us to conclude that if all things are relative and in line with management goals for deer, regardless of the number of deer harvested, the % of Big Bucks should remain virtually the same. It doesn’t.

This next graph, which I found on the Face Book page for Maine Deer Hunters, posted by Troy Frye, gives us a great glimpse at the number of bucks harvested versus the number of “Antlerless” deer for each season, 2000 – 2015. I see an interesting graphic. After the severe winters of 2007/2008, MDIFW cut “Any-Deer Permits” allocation drastically. By doing such, hunters were not able to take the first deer they saw, providing they had a permit that allows harvest of either sex. In other words, an “Any-Deer Permit” does not limit the bearer to shooting only an “antlerless” deer. While during those years, the total deer harvest did drop, the buck harvest didn’t drop by the same percentage as the total harvest.

The percentage of bucks to “antlerless” harvest was considerably higher from the years 2008 through 2015. How does this affect the percentage of Big Buck harvest in comparison with total deer harvest, as shown in the chart above?

That may be a difficult task to answer, however we can see from the above chart that the number of Big Bucks and the percentage of total harvest dropped and essentially has remained low since at least 2008 – none of these numbers remaining consistent.

To provide us with an easier comparison, my techno guru put this graph together for me. I must give credit where credit is due. The basic graph that shows the total number of Big Bucks harvested, from 2000 – 2016 was also posted on the Maine Deer Hunter Face Book page. My techno guru overlaid (in red) the percentage of Big Bucks as compared to total deer harvest. Note: There are some slight differences in numbers used from one source to another. Those differences should not have any measurable influences in determining, or attempting to determine, trends.

The last two charts attempt to make comparisons of the average weights of the top ten heaviest harvested Big Bucks for the years 2006 – 2016. Does anything here jump out at you?

Deer management is a very complex science. While it might be interesting to play around with statistics, with what is presented essentially anyone could make an argument for or against most anything related to deer management. While I, or anyone else, might recognize a possible trend, it is most difficult to make any real firm statements without having at one’s disposal all the data for the years in question due to the many influences that can alter any data from one year to the next.

Having said all that, here’s something that I think should provide information the Maine Legislature, or the MDIFW Committee, or anyone else should consider BEFORE proposing another Sunday Hunting Bill.

The chart, found on Maine Deer Hunter Facebook page, posted by Troy Frye, shows the 2016 Big Buck Harvest and what percentage of that harvest occurred on what day of the week. For example, 31% of the total Big Buck harvest took place on Saturday. That’s because more hunters have that day of the week off from work and take it to hunt.

When you consider that Maine can only sustain a deer herd with a limited total deer harvest, adding Sundays to the hunting season would not necessarily add 3 or 4 weekend days a season to hunt. In short, to maintain a desired and limited deer harvest, the total season would need to be shortened to offset the increased hunter effort.

  • RattlerRider

    Amazing isn’t it.. Scientists can write up fascinating articulate studies that appear absolutely fool proof and they are complete falsehoods..And nobody checks no body knows they just believe those beautiful “facts” that appear excellent on paper..

    • TRemington

      Yep. The thing is many of those “reports” are loaded with “might” “could” “may” “possibly” etc. but that’s not what people want to read or hear. If what they can grab fits a narrative, more power to them.

      Yeah, it’s amazing alright.

  • aborn299

    The big question is…what made 2002 such a great year? Moon phase? Timing of the rut with weather or calendar dates?

    • TRemington

      Great year in respect to what? Total harvest? Or percentage of big bucks?

      • aborn299

        Total Harvest. The percentage of 200# bucks wasn’t abnormal. But the total kill number was incredible.

        • TRemington

          I could only speculate. I don’t have any relevant data to support any supposition.

          We know of the many things that can affect a harvest count. However, I’m not sure that unless all influencing factors were in play, it would have created the disparity. However, 2000’s harvest was within 2,000 of 2002.

          Off the top of my head I would have to guess maybe there was too many “Any-Deer Permits” issued or the simple thought that maybe there were just a heck of a lot more deer.

          You got any ideas?

          • aborn299

            I believe I had to skip the 2002 season as I was attending my senior year of college. So I can’t attest to the quantity of deer. The reason I found this article is because I harvested a 246 pound buck this season in Katahdin Ironworks. It is only the second buck I have gotten in Maine in my 18 or so seasons of hunting there. And I have only missed a couple other opportunities over the years. So I’m curious about deer population in the State as many hunters are.

          • TRemington

            Congratulations on your buck! I understand what you are saying. In the many years I have followed and written about deer management in Maine, I am convinced that good scientific deer management has been replaced with scientism and social manipulation. I don’t look for deer hunting to get any better unless it happens by mistake.

            Maine always wants to blame global warming on their shortcomings and yet are just as quick to point out that Maine struggles with deer herds because the state is at the northern fringe of its habitat.

            If GW exists, then this “northern fringe” should be migrating north setting the stage for increased herds of deer.


          • aborn299

            Thank you. It was the hunt of a lifetime and a one mile drag good enough for ten lifetimes. I’d like to know who they blame for the melting of glaciers. Was it the Wooly Mammoth? Weather data has only been formally documented since the mid 1800’s to my knowledge. So we do not have enough data or history to know what this planet has done over its 8 billion year lifespan. Either way, deer hunting in Maine is also difficult due to the lack of mature trees in which you can put a treestand. I have often found great hunting areas with no options to sit in a tree. This limits your chances as a hunter. But the reward for getting a large buck on the ground is incredible