December 10, 2018

Too Many Deer Being Harvested?

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Yeah, I know. I’m never satisfied. It’s either too hot or too cold, etc. However, just asking!

According to Bill Green of Bill Green’s Maine, hunters have taken 30,299 deer through the regular firearms season. Muzzleloader season remains.

Last season, 2017, total deer harvest of all disciplines, totaled 27,233. Easily Maine will exceed a 10% increase in deer harvested. Last year Maine muzzleloader hunters took 970 deer, so we might add another 1,000 deer to the 30,299 when harvest totals are completed.

I have discussed numbers and asked questions before, so let’s do this one more time. In 2017 Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) allotted 66,050 “Any-Deer Permits” (ADP) with tags used totaling 6,054 doe (antlerless) deer. This harvest was 13% less than deer manager’s harvest projections.

My question going into this deer hunting season with MDIFW issuing a record number of ADPs, 84,745, was why did the projected “Any-Deer” harvest fall 13% short? Evidently, MDIFW managers believe that increasing the number of ADPs will increase the number of females, or antlerless deer harvested. But, do we know that falling short of projections was the result of not enough permits issued? It is important to have this information.

There’s a problem with issuing record numbers of ADPs, even if the majority of those ADPs are issued for Wildlife Management Districts (WMD) with more deer per square mile than managers desire – and one of those problems is what we have seen this season with hunters being able to hunt on lots of snow (in many places) for extended periods of time (three weeks in most of Western Maine).

I don’t have any scientific data to support any claim that it seems that it is in those areas with the most snow, falling on the earliest dates, are in those WMDs where deer per square mile is extremely sparse. With early snow in those areas combined with a record number of ADPs, have we harvested too many deer? What will this cost us?

While it is nice for hunters that 31,000 deer have been harvested, the increase in harvest is NOT due to an increase in the overall population of deer throughout the state. What does this mean for next year’s deer harvest? While it’s too early to predict, with better than two feet of snow on the ground in the Western Foothills, and we haven’t reached December yet, are we staring down the barrel of another “severe” winter that will wipe out the rest of the herd? Do deer managers factor in the possibility of hunters having snow to hunt on nearly the entire season, which in and of itself causes harvest numbers to increase? This amount of snow this early is not even close to approaching normal. (Damned the Global Warming)

Are we going to pay for this and if so, how much?

Addendum:

I have spent many years bitching and complaining that MDIFW cannot get deer harvest numbers out to the public in some time period less than 6-8 months after the fact. MDIFW has finally done it and digitalized the tagging process so that this information is at the hands of managers instantly.

While it appears that the only way to get that information is to contact someone at MDIFW and hope for cooperation, we can get occasional updates from media sources who get cooperation, such as Bill Green.

I have expressed that there are few excuses to use that would prohibit the managers from placing live tagging information on the MDIFW website and would certainly like to see this in another year. We’ll see.

With that all said, congratulations and thank you to the personnel at MDIFW for getting this task moved into the modern era and that we can at least have harvest data that we don’t have to wait months for.

*Editor’s Note* – Within moments of publishing this report, MDIFW published a press release with deer harvest information. You can read their report by clicking on this link.

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