April 24, 2017

Maine Needs Annual Deer Biologist Award

Presented to the head of the department that faithfully refuses to release deer harvest data never fearing a mistake or revealing data that might cause inciting of anger among the sportsmen. Three cheers!

Playing With Maine’s Big Bucks…Numbers That Is

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.

Destruction of Deer Environmentalists Refuse to Acknowledge

One, Two, Three, Four…What Comes Next?

CRICKETS

Illegal Deer Hunting “Causes Animal to Suffer Extreme Pain”

I generally avoid publishing stories about poaching, but this one caught my attention. It’s not the fact that a man shot at a deer in the nighttime, which is against the law, and that he went back the next day to find the deer he had wounded. The man has been charged with various items of law-breaking but the one that has me puzzled is that he has been charged with “felony aggravated cruelty to animals.” According to the charges, the poacher, “manifested a depraved indifference to animal life or suffering, did intentionally, knowingly or recklessly cause extreme physical pain to an animal, cause the death of an animal, or physically torture an animal.”

I need a little help here in figuring out how this alleged deer poacher did all these things. First he “manifested a depraved indifference to animal life and suffering.” How did he do this? Were there witnesses that heard him say he was going to go shoot at a deer, in the dark, and he hoped or didn’t care whether he wounded the deer or not because he was going to let it suffer all night long, and then kill it? And he knew that shooting and wounding a deer, intentionally mind you, would cause “extreme physical pain (and torture) to an animal?” Or that he knew shooting at a deer at night might kill the animal? Whether one is poaching a deer or legally hunting a deer, the object is to kill it…unless, in this case, the Maine Warden Service intends to prove the alleged poacher only intended to wound the deer and make it suffer – cruelly, with extreme physical pain and torture.

I have hunted deer for many years. I’m not as good a shot as I used to be when I was younger, but I still consider myself better than average. I have never met anyone who ever expressed the ability to shoot at a deer, or any other animal for that matter, to intentionally wound it. That’s one hell of a good marksman. To shoot and kill a deer is a bigger target to hit, and that’s difficult enough. Now we are supposed to believe this guy, at night, making it even more difficult, aimed at and pulled the trigger of a weapon with the intention of only wounding it, so he could intentionally cause “extreme physical pain,” and “torture,” along with “suffering?”

I think what we are witnessing is just another example of what I have been writing about for years – the mind manipulation by Environmentalists of wildlife managers (in this case wildlife law enforcement) in order to brainwash them into believing the nonsense of the charge. Don’t get me wrong. If this guy was illegally taking game, throw the book at him. But to somehow think a felony charge of “aggravated cruelty to animals,” as the charge claims, is demented thinking. Unless this warden has proof of what I have just described, he better drop those charges. What’s more important, if this particular warden, and/or the Maine Warden Service, actually is of the position that shooting at and wounding a deer deserves felony aggravated animal cruelty charges, the department should be shut down.

The question I have is this: If this guy was legally hunting and fired at a deer, 10 minutes before the end of legal hunting, discovered he had wounded the deer, and tracked it as best he could, deciding to come back in the morning to pick up the track again, eventually finding the deer, dead or otherwise, would this hunter then be charged with the same felony aggravated cruelty to animals?

The only difference that I can see between the case where charges were filed and the one I just described, is that the first one happened after dark. I hope like hell there ain’t a judge anywhere in the world that would agree that this alleged poacher, went about his business of breaking the law, to intentionally cause pain and suffering by deliberately aiming to wound the deer and not kill it.

God help us!

Again Amish Seeking Special Interest Hunting Privileges

A proposed Maine bill, LD 426, would provide an exception for the Amish, who claim they are opposed to wearing bright-colored clothing, to wear “red” while hunting instead of the required hunter or blaze orange.

“SUMMARY – This bill allows a hunter whose religion prohibits the wearing of hunter orange to instead wear red. It also directs the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to amend its rules to reflect this exemption.”

Questions that need to be answered:

1. This proposed bill does not allow for the definition of “religion” nor does it specifically exempt the Amish from wearing hunter orange. Any “religious” group would be exempt. What can of worms is this going to create? What other groups will seek preferential treatment or exemptions from Maine laws.

2. By allowing an exemption to special interest groups, which any “religious” group is, setting of such a precedent could have far reaching future problems. Has this been thought through completely?

3. According to testimony by a member of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, who support the passage of LD 426, it was stated that this bill would, provides visibility for a hunter and a choice for persons who have a religious opposition to wearing orange.” [emphasis added]. An interesting perspective, when the overwhelming majority of hunters are required, by law, to wear the blaze orange, evidently if you are religious, the increased visibility is not necessary? In addition, it was also stated that if Amish (religious) people took their children hunting, it would be left up to the parents as to whether or not they needed to be seen. Clearly this is a double standard. I understand the so-called “religious” aspect, although it appears that the Amish prohibition against wearing bright clothing is not practiced or enforced universally. Last time I checked it was a legal REQUIREMENT that hunters wear blaze orange. Isn’t this a public safety issue and not one of fashion? Which brings us now to the next question.

4. If all “non-religious” hunters who wear blaze orange are in the woods hunting with “religious” hunters wearing, instead, red, even though the law states that a hunter must know his/her target, is the legal onus and liability now placed doubly so on the “non-religious” hunter to learn to recognize a “religious” hunter not wearing blaze? What is the difference in exempting all hunters and giving them the choice, over allotting this privilege to a religious person? Should this bill proposal exempt “non-religious” hunters from liability for “accidentally” shooting a “religious” hunter because he was allowed to not follow the same rules of safety?

Perhaps it is time for the “religious” people to lobby God and ask Him for an exemption to a seemingly silly requirement. For by Grace are you saved, by Faith, not according to the color of the clothes you wear.

However, last night god spoke to me directly and instructed me to never wear hunter orange. I must now lobby the government for a preferentially treatment law. How can the State deny me or anyone else who makes such a claim, from being granted this exemption?

Another Proposed Maine Sunday Hunting Bill Defeated

According to information written and available, this was the 34th time a bill was proposed that would permit some form of Sunday hunting. This is a Dead Horse. Let’s bury it…or make some glue.

Below I am going to post the written comments, that were posted on George Smith’s website, by Tom Doak, Executive Director for the Maine Woodland Owners, in opposition to Sunday hunting. I believe his testimony is quite accurate and something I nearly completely agree with and support. First, I would like to express a couple of things that Mr. Doak either didn’t mention or was not fully explained, probably due to time constraints, etc..

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) manages for game, i.e. deer, moose, turkeys, bear. Those management plans involve predicting, as best they can, what the annual harvest of each species should be in order to meet the management goals, especially population controls. This estimation includes how many days of hunting, and what days of the week (including holidays) will produce the number of hunters necessary to harvest a sought after number of game animals. The theory is simple but pulling it off has a lot of variables that present challenges, to say the least.

If we examine more closely the deer season – because it is the biggest of all of them – MDIFW has a close estimate of how many deer and what sex will need to be killed in a given season to meet goals. If Sunday hunting should become a day of deer hunting added to the week, not only would the season length have to be shortened to prevent overkill, it would have to be shortened to compensate for the extra hunters that would hunt on that Sunday as opposed to any other day of the week. If Maine added 4 Sundays to its hunting season, certainly the entire deer hunting season would have to be shortened no less than one week, but I suspect more than that. The short of it would not give a net result of 4 Sundays but more than likely 1 or 2.

Trying to guess whether Sunday hunting would increase or decrease the number of deer hunters, what then will happen to the same, or greater number of hunters that would be crammed into two weeks of hunting vs. four? What would happen to deer kill rates? What would happen to the number of hunting accidents that would occur? Would hunting in Maine be the same attraction for out-of state hunters? Or even in-state hunters? How many other questions can you come up with?

The convenience of the current deer hunting season, minus any Sunday hunting, is that it spreads the season out and eases the pressure put on the deer, and in particular the already stressed bucks that are entering or in the middle of the annual rutting season.

The current format works well for two major reasons. 1.) As has been explained, and is explained further in Doak’s testimony, access to land for hunting and recreation is open unless posted by the landowner. This is a tremendous privilege for hunters and should be protected at all costs. 2.) Maine is not overrun with deer, with the exception of a few places in south-central Maine. According to Smith, the Executive Director of the Maine Farm Bureau was quoted as saying, “when the policy of Sunday hunting comes up, no matter where in the state the farmers live, there is little debate on Sunday hunting. Farmers are in agreement. They are opposed to Sunday hunting.” I wouldn’t pretend to question that statement. However, I wonder if those same farmers would feel the same way if Maine had too many deer, or other wild animals, that were destroying their crops, etc.? They might welcome more hunting.

I would have to agree with Mr. Doak. If this issue were simply a matter of providing more hunting opportunities, then lengthen the seasons, void of adding Sundays. But, it’s not simply a matter of providing more opportunities in all hunting seasons. When populations of game animals become in excess, then increase bag limits and/or lengthen the season. Simple enough…mostly.

Offering Sunday, might or might not provide “more opportunities” for hunting. I’m not so sure about deer hunting. If it did, I’m convinced the quality of those increased opportunities would diminish and I wouldn’t care much for that.

Here is Tom Doak’s written testimony in opposition to Sunday hunting.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tom Doak’s Testimony

The issue of Sunday hunting is not new.  In fact, I believe this is the 33rd time in the last 41 years that the Legislature has considered the issue.  Each time, the Legislature has rejected Sunday hunting.

There is no single issue that would change the relationship more dramatically between Maine landowners and hunters; between hunters and the general public; and between hunters themselves, than Sunday hunting.  There is no single issue that would result in more loss of access to private land, for all purposes, than Sunday hunting. 

The issue of hunting on Sunday may have started as a “blue law,” but it has evolved over the last 130 years (that is how long hunting on Sunday has been prohibited) into an important landowner/hunter/general public accommodation. 

In most other states, you do not go on someone’s land to hunt without their permission.  In most other states, a hunter pays a fee to the landowner.  And in many other states, land is leased to individuals or hunting clubs.  Not in Maine.  Essentially here, unless told otherwise, it is assumed you can hunt on a person’s property – for free.  That is an incredible benefit afforded a hunter in Maine, which is too often not fully appreciated and is commonly taken for granted.

The primary reason there is not a law in Maine requiring landowner permission for all access to private land, including hunting, (so called reverse posting) is because landowners know they will have one day in seven to fully enjoy their property. Even active supporters of Sunday hunting have opposed bills requiring landowner permission, knowing that once permission is required for hunting in Maine, there would be a substantial loss of access.  They understand that any statute that requires permission for only Sunday will quickly transition into requiring permission for any day.

The importance of Sunday to landowners should not be underestimated.  I do not think hunters fully understand how many landowners count on that day to fully enjoy their property.  Many landowners even change their plans during the week to avoid disturbing someone else’s hunting experience.

The importance to the public of having Sunday should not be underestimated either.  That is the day many non-hunters enjoy private land free from hunters or infringing on hunting activities.  

One of the arguments for allowing hunting on Sunday is that many hunters work on Saturday or have children or grandchildren in school activities – so they need the opportunity to hunt on Sunday.  Just as many woodlot owners work on Saturday or care about school activities as well.  Sunday may be the one day a woodland owner gets to fully enjoy their own property.

As an organization, we support hunting and always have.  It is telling that the most forceful opposition to hunting on Sunday is not from those opposed to hunting, but from landowners and farmers. These are the very same people who provide more than 90% of the hunting opportunities in Maine – for free. And the same people that overwhelming support the tradition of hunting in general.

If the purpose of this bill is to enhance hunting opportunities or wildlife resource management, there is a simple way of doing that.  Lengthen the hunting seasons.  Earlier this session we supported expansion of turkey hunting opportunities.  In other legislative sessions, we have also supported creation of youth hunting days, expanded archery seasons, muzzle loader seasons, a spring turkey season and others.

Economic development is sometimes cited as a justification to allow Sunday hunting.  A Maine Office of Tourism & Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioned study showed that hunting contributes $338.7 million dollars to the Maine economy – an impressive figure.  Just as impressive is 90% or more of all that economic activity is predicated upon access to private land.  The $338.7 million dollars does not include the impact of snowmobiling, trapping, ATV riding, all provided through access to private land.  Approximately, 95% of 14,000 miles of snowmobile trails and 7,000 miles of ATV trails in Maine are located on private land.  Whether it is hunting or any of these other outdoor activities, landowners are providing those opportunities for free. 

Why put the outdoor economy of this state at risk over an activity that is based on free access to private land when, at best: only half the hunters in Maine support Sunday hunting;  the majority of landowners and farmers do not support Sunday hunting; and the public, overwhelmingly, opposes Sunday hunting?

Over the years, just about every possible scenario to get some type of Sunday hunting enacted has been tried. We believe that Sunday hunting in any form is bad for landowners; is bad for hunters; is bad for recreational users and perhaps, most importantly, is bad public policy. 

We are hard pressed to think of a policy change that could do more damage to landowner/user relations than Sunday hunting.

We urge you to oppose this bill.

What Kind of Lazy-Ass Hunting is This?

One proposed bill in Maine concerning deer hunting is LD 62, an act that would legalize hunting deer over bait. Most already know I oppose this as it is not a necessary tool to keep deer populations in check, among other things, and I also find it ridiculous that it is legal to plant a “food crop” specifically for deer and hunt over that, as somehow being that much different than hunting over a pile of bait. Instead of increasing the ability to bait, it’s time MDIFW enacted a law making it illegal to hunt over food crops – those specifically planted at deer bait.

However…..

In George Smith’s article about discussion at the committee level on LD 62, there are two distinct comments/testimony made by those in attendance that readers should pay attention to.

One is a man named Guy Randlett, described as a Maine Guide who, among other things, said this: “Sitting in a nice dry ground blind in a comfortable chair from dawn till dusk only enhances it all for me.”

The second testimony is that of Dave Kelso, who favored passage of the bill. Among many issues he presented, he stated: “By allowing baiting for deer, landowners would be in a position to charge a lease fee for bait sites.” In addition, this: “The way that we hunt in Maine is changing and is going to change even more just in my lifetime. Leases and hunt clubs are going to come to Maine. You are going to be hearing about antler restrictions. With limited land and the possibility of having to judge a deer before pulling the trigger, baiting only makes sense to allow everyone an equal opportunity.”

If this is the direction that Maine wants to take its deer hunting, count me out. I realize that each hunter has his own preferences for hunting within the laws that regulate it. I would not suggest denying anybody of those choices. However, what is being described here, as though it is something good, in no way resembles the traditional deer hunting I grew up with. Not unlike catch and release fishing, I find lounging in a recliner waiting for a buck with big enough antlers to satisfy one’s qualifications of “trophy” as being quite perverse.

Because hunting deer while sitting in a blind with all the modern conveniences, staring at a bait pile, is an indication of how deer hunting is changing, I would suggest that, unless I’m the only one left alive who likes traditional deer hunting, we do everything in our power to stop this “progressive” change that will bastardize a once precious tradition.

Antler Restrictions?

SAM Opposes Deer Baiting, Sells Wildlife Seeds to Grow Crops for Deer Baiting

WINK-WINK!

I wrote earlier today about how the Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife disapproved a bill proposal that would have allowed baiting deer and shooting deer over bait. In that report I said there were differences between creating a bait station and hunting over that site and growing a crop of food for “wildlife,” and there are. For one, the crop growing site wouldn’t force so many deer, nose to nose, for those worrying about chronic wasting disease. Secondly, the sales pitch for growing the crops, whether beside or near “deer wintering areas,” would be because it provides nutrition for deer prior to and coming out of deer yards. From here you can conjure up any excuse you want for or against the action.

And there’s sort of a difference between hunting over a bait pile versus hunting over a crop grown to attract deer, but I can’t think of what it might be.

So, one has to wonder. According to the Portland Press Herald report, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) opposed the bill that would allow hunting deer over a bait pile. “David Trahan, director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, and Don Kleiner, director of the Maine Professional Guides Association, opposed the bill because it could put more hunting pressure on herds in areas where deer are relatively sparse, and there’s “no real biological or management-based reason to support (the bill),”

But they more than support growing deer crops and hunting over the crops, even if those crops are planted in areas where “deer are relatively sparse,” as can be seen from the advertisement below. Maybe the fear is that deer bait piles are not nutritious and would be bad for deer…but not for bears?

I doubt there is enough crop growing statewide that is having much of any influence over manipulating nutrition for deer. However, I think for the state to allow hunting over those crops, especially when you consider the location of some of these crops, they need to provide a better more explanation.