January 22, 2019

Former Maine Deer Biologist Gerry Lavigne Questions Next Year’s Deer Hunting Opportunities

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At the end of November past (2018) I reported on the Maine deer harvest. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) officials seemed eager to announce a big increase in the deer harvest attributing most of the increase to a record number of “Any-Deer Permits” issued in parts of Central and Southern Maine.

In my report I made the following statements: “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?”

On November 27, 2018, the MDIFW issued a Press Release announcing the results of deer tagging as compiled by their new digital tagging system. The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) published that Press Release in their newspaper which also included an “Editor’s Note” from Gerry Lavigne, former head deer biologist for the MDIFW.

Below is the “Editor’s Note”: “The strong finish to the 2018 deer harvest is not without its downsides. Snow accumulation in the western mountains and northern Maine during the latter half of November was sufficient to cause deer to enter their yards a month earlier than normal. Since then, cold temps and subsequent storms have increased the snowpack. This made for a higher success rate during black powder season. Hunters took a LOT of bucks during the final three weeks of hunting, likely many more than would normally be harvested. This could impact buck availability during 2019.

Because yarding occurred a full month earlier than normal in the northern half of the state, deer could be in for a tough winter. If severe yarding conditions prevail, above-average winter losses among bucks and does could negatively impact deer availability in 2019. Let’s hope for a big thaw, and soon!

Gerry Lavigne

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