November 29, 2020

Deer Hunting: When Bad Becomes the Normal

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I was reading a Bangor Daily News article late last night and I read a couple of things that I thought I would like to comment on.

The tone of the article seemed to want to reflect a bit of braggadocio about how terrific the Maine deer harvest was this year and how it exceeded the last ten year average.

With it in mind that “statistics prove that statistics can prove anything,” with a few mirrors and a bit of smoke, comparing a deer harvest to the ten worst years ever in Maine’s deer hunting history, would make a slight increase in numbers appear much better than it really is.

The ten-year average deer harvest, from 2009-2018, is 22,709. In the news article, comparing this year’s harvest of 28,317 to this ten-year average, makes it appear as though the Maine woods are teeming with deer. As a matter of fact the article states that Maine’s head deer biologist seems to believe that, “…the high number of deer taken was a product of favorable weather and a thriving deer herd…” Compared to what? The worst of the worst, evidently.

If we were to examine the ten-year average from 1999-2008, we find an average deer harvest of 27,465, putting this year’s harvest at about the ten-year average of 1999-2008, which is still below what Maine hunters used to experience before social pressures dictated deer management.

By comparison, if we examine the best 20-year deer harvests, dating back to 1964, we find that average to be 33,693, with the highest harvest coming in 1968 at 41,080. Geez! That’s ONLY 50 years ago!!

It should be noted that the tenth highest deer harvest during that 50-year span happened last year – 2018 when the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife decided, for some unexplained reason, to issues the most “Any-Deer Permits” ever – in excess of 48,000 of them. Is it any wonder the harvest was so high?

Maine meanders along appeasing most of the hunters and fooling a few with their magical words about a “thriving” deer herd, but the truth is, all Maine needs is one or two more “severe” winters (coming at a time when the managers promote global warming) and the deer herd will be gone.

The new normal is to compare deer harvest to the absolute worst so reality is overlook. Maine’s deer herd is NOT “thriving.” It is sustaining in some regions and continuing to drop in others.

Wouldn’t it be much better for deer management if a bit of honesty and a focus on reality is what drives it?

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