December 12, 2017

Is Maine’s Muzzleloader Deer Season in the Best Interest of the Deer?

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I was sent a link to a short article written by Maine’s Bill Green about Maine’s muzzleloader deer hunting season that runs until this coming Saturday. Green quotes muzzleloader advocates: “It just gives you that two weeks to get out there in the woods with less people out there.” And, “You have to take your time and I think while you’re hunting you get flashbacks of the way that it was a couple hundred years ago and that’s kind of neat.

I often get a lot of flack back from readers when, to them, I don’t support increased opportunities to hunt, fish and trap. In reality, I do always support increased opportunities, but only when that increase is equitable and is not detrimental to the sustainability of any game species.

If muzzleloaders are looking for some extra time in the woods “with less people out there,” certainly there must be a period of time except during the first two weeks of December (explanation to follow). But consider that this allowance, even though anyone who chooses can buy a Muzzleloader License and buy a muzzleloader gun…..or can they? Is this a form of elitism, exclusive to those who can afford a license and another gun and a deterrent to those who can’t? Perhaps. I doubt that is considered. I doubt anyone actually cares.

Who can argue the enjoyment one gets being in the woods, even when carrying a gun, rifle, muzzleloader, or even a camera. Having “flashbacks” of maybe what it was like “a couple hundred years ago?” Two hundred years ago, did deer hunters have inline muzzleloaders that can be cleaned and reloaded in 30 seconds? Maybe some have “thoughts” about what it was like, but I don’t think there are any hunters who hunted 200 years ago so that they could have a “flashback.”

Aside from any discussion about primitive versus modern muzzleloader equipment, if a guy wants those thoughts, can’t he have them during the regular firearm deer hunting season? Or other times and places?

Here are some questions. Is the muzzleloader season just another money-making pet project for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW)? How about a pistol season? What of a muzzleloader pistol season? Can we get a season for atlatl hunting? Let’s make a season for only shotguns. One for only senior citizens. And one for veterans. A separate one for senior citizens who are also veterans. Where does this end?

But let’s get to the most important issue – the deer. Hunting rules for muzzleloader season are the same as during the firearms season. If you don’t have an “Any-Deer Permit” you have to hunt bucks only. Traditionally, the deer’s annual rut (mating season) falls around the third week of November. That doesn’t mean that that is the only week that deer mate. As soon as any female deer comes into “heat” (estrus) a male deer, with the opportunity, will mate with it. If during the month of November, a doe deer is not successfully bred, that doe will continuously remain in estrus until it gets bred. Science has shown that sometimes that breeding will not happen until late in November or into early December.

With that understanding and knowledge of how bucks run themselves ragged during rutting season, an honest question might be is it in the best interest of those deer, coming off or still in the rutting process, to continue allowing hunters to harass them? We know that bucks will lose most of their valuable, stored fats, needed for winter survival, during the rut. Because of this, buck mortality can be high during the long winter months. That time between the end of the rut and when deer are forced to “yard up” can determine whether a buck can survive the winter. Do we really want hunters, harassing those bucks even further during this period of time?

If the deer population is strong enough to support a two-week muzzleloader season, perhaps a more equitable increase in hunter opportunity might be to extend the firearm season for deer another day or two. At least let’s find a better time to give those muzzleloader hunters a chance to be alone in the woods and dishonestly have “flashbacks” about what it was like 200 years ago. Oh, please!

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