*Editor’s Note* – The following are comments/questions compiled by Jim Beers, retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, in response to an article found in the Star Tribune. Mr. Beers took certain excerpts from the article (numbered below) and responds to them.
By James Beers
(I.)Excluding the late season, hunters killed about 144,000 deer during the main season, down 6 percent from 153,000 in 2012. Overall, Minnesota’s firearms, muzzleloader and archery hunters have registered 164,500 deer as of last Wednesday. Before the season, the DNR had expected hunter success would be similar to 2012, when they killed about 185,000 deer.
Question – How many deer did Minnesota hunters kill in 2012? Was it 153,000 or 185,000? If it is 185,000 and if the most recent count of deer taken is 164,500, the kill is down 12% and not 6%. Since the “general public” doesn’t catch this stuff, the radicals are happy hunting is “on the way out” and the hunters shrug that maybe it really was only bad weather responsible for the decrease. Like moose hunters, deer hunters are headed to the museum thinking it is a field trip and not their final resting place.
(II.)Steve Merchant, the DNR’s wildlife population and regulations manager, said a lower deer population is likely the main reason hunters haven’t fared so well, though the weather was a factor, too.
The season opener was windy, while it was rainy and windy the next weekend. Bad weather can limit deer movement, as well as discourage hunters from spending as much time in their stands. And the deer population was already down because of the harsh winter of 2012-13, which led the agency to reduce the number of does hunters could kill in northern Minnesota.
Question – The DNR “expert” tells us only “a lower deer population is likely the main reason hunters haven’t fared so well”. Not a peep about predation. How does he “know” it wasn’t increasing predation since the DNR “had expected hunter success would be similar to 2012, when they killed about 185,000 deer”? If it was only the tired and worn excuses (minus global warming and ticks) spewed out by the DNR as moose disappeared, ask yourself why the DNR expected “hunter success similar to 2012” even after reducing “the number of does hunters could kill in northern Minnesota.”? This smoke and mirrors gives White House “transparency” a run for its money.
(III,)Mark Johnson, executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, concurred that the lower deer population is the main factor in the lower harvest. He said success also had a lot to do with the particular area of the state. There have been fewer signs of deer in areas where harvest limits had been set high to bring local populations down, he said. And he said he believes the wolf population is also a factor in northeastern Minnesota.
NOTE: This is an example of a hunter organization (there are many, many more such examples every year) running interference for DNR buddies. Notice that the DNR never mentions wolf predation but this “executive director” does so hunters relax, they have been heard. The DNR stays solid with the radicals and the “director” is buddies with both his deer hunters and his DNR pals. But what does it mean to say he believes “the wolf population is also a factor in northeastern Minnesota.”? What must be done? Who will do it? What does this mean for deer?
(IV.)Johnson said he’s hearing from hunters that they want the state to produce more deer. He said the DNR is likely to respond to that by reducing the antlerless harvest.
NOTE: Wow, his hunters want “more deer” and “the DNR is likely to respond to that by reducing the antlerless harvest”. Why didn’t they try that with moose? I think I will write a thank you letter to Governor Dayton for such responsive government. Future deer success can be expected to mirror recent moose success if wolves are not figured into the equation and dealt with forthrightly – if we are to really have “more deer”.
(V.)This is Minnesota’s second wolf season since the animals came off the endangered list. The DNR lowered the overall target to 220 wolves this time for the two-part season. Hunters killed 88 in the early season. Last year’s overall target was 400, and the final count of wolves killed was 413.
NOTE: Minnesota’s most recent wolf count is 2, 211 (I just love those odd numbers as if the all-but-impossible-to-count wolves were sandhill cranes roosting as a flock on a Platte River sandbar when an aerial photograph is taken and some apprentice biologist sat down with a pin and counted every last one of them in the photo right down to the 211th one!)
For a long list of political reasons, MN, WI, MI, MT, ID, OR, WA et al undercount wolves. This has been true ever since they got into the sack with federal bureaucrats as allies in the wolf wars.
Truth be told, Minnesota has at least 3,000 or more wolves. Last year, Minnesota killed 413 or 13% of their wolves. This year they will kill only 220 or 7 % of their wolves. You can kill 20- 25% of your furbearers, small game or big game every year (as many states do) and you merely stimulate the population by guaranteeing more survive the winter and more reproduction takes place because of less competition and more available food. If you wanted to have “more” deer or moose and you admitted the obvious impact of wolves on deer and moose; you would kill 50-75% of your wolves for 4-6 years and then maintain a harvest of 35-45% of your wolves annually ever after – or you would exterminate the wolves as was done throughout history in Europe and North America.
That is the real reason deer hunting success is down but nobody is going to look into it, much less try to do anything about it. Why don’t we try a government hunter-recruitment program in addition to “reducing the antlerless harvest”? Maybe the reason there isn’t any moose hunting anymore is that the government didn’t recruit moose hunters. I think I’ll put that suggestion in my thank-you letter to the Governor. It is as sensible as the rest of this stuff.
11 December 2013
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Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC. He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands. He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC. He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority. He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.
Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting. You can receive future articles by sending a request with your e-mail address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
You may have seen this before….or at least some version of it. I’m not going to go searching, but I think I recall having posted a video perhaps 6 or more years ago showing a similar event.
Media reports all throughout Maine’s recent whitetail deer hunting season mostly are in agreement that it appears the deer harvest took a 20% increase from last year. It will probably be 3 or 4 months before official harvest data are released; a time when most hunters have forgotten about the season and moved on to other things, i.e. ice fishing, sledding, etc. Some examples of media reports can be found here and here.
Some don’t think getting the facts in a timely manner, as other states do, matters much, but I say, especially under the current conditions in Maine concerning the deer herd, timely data is more important than ever before. It’s easy for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), along with the aid of their complicit media outlets, to hype the deer season as being one of great success. It’s the close examination of the compiled data that tells the real story.
I have no faith in the mainstream media in these affairs as their intent it to sell copy and historically, their exists little in the way of “journalism” these days. It has been co opted by copy and paste cloning of text.
If Maine’s harvest statewide should come in at around a 20% increase over 2012, that would fall in line with what the new deer biologist, Kyle Ravana predicted going into the season. That harvest number would still be 20% – 30% below historic maximum harvests. It certainly isn’t time to blow one’s horn about the successful rebuilding of a deer herd, when the majority of the success can be attributed to mild winters. What happens when another bad winter or two hits again?
However, all this talk and media hype of overall hunting success and increases in statewide deer harvest, does nothing to educate and inform the hunters of what’s going on with the deer herd town to town and Wildlife Management District (WMD) to Wildlife Management District. If planned properly, a media campaign can convince enough people the MDIFW has waved their magic wand and saved the deer herd. That’s not good enough for me and that’s why I have always been so adamant about getting the deer harvest stats out in a more timely fashion; while it’s still fresh in everyone’s mind.
So, once again, Maine sportsman will, more than likely, have to wait until late March and perhaps in April before we can have access to data to examine to see where harvest increases took place and where they didn’t. In the meantime, I do hope that the majority of hunters had success and filled their freezers.
I want hunters to be successful and I want a healthy, robust deer herd. However, logic dictates that for that to happen, something must change or we are programmed to repeat the failures of the past. I’m not convinced the necessary changes have taken place to prevent the disasters of 4 and 5 years ago.
For those who may not regularly follow and read my articles, I have long promoted solutions that I feel need to be done in order to manage deer to better rebuild the herd and prepare for and prevent another disaster as the winters of 2007/2008. Here are links to some of those articles: Here, here, here.
It is readily admitted that since 2009, the winters have been relatively mild and as a result has allowed for a reduced mortality during winter months. Implementation of a deer management plan that heavily relies on global warming (more mild winters), especially at a time that science is forecasting a transition into about a 30-year period of rapid cooling, will only spell continued disaster. Something must change.
I read with interest an article in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald about how the most southern county in Maine, York County, has been quite consistent over the years with its deer harvest – even despite the death and destruction after the two famed, back-to-back “severe” winters of 2008 and 2009.
In this article and others, is often repeated the reasons why there are more deer in Southern and Central Maine than in other places. For one, the climate is consistently a bit milder and some people claim that there is less hunting going on in some of these regions because more land is posted to hunting and trespass.
Always missing in these articles is any mention of why, other than climate and land postings, deer are more prevalent here than there. When we examine the causes of deer mortality, we learn that climate/weather/severe winters, habitat (feed and cover), human-caused mortality (hunting and auto accidents, etc.), disease, and predation are the main causes. So, logically speaking one should be able to conclude that York County must have less of some or all of these causes of deer death, if it is maintaining a constant deer population resulting in a consistent harvest.
I touched briefly on climate. Let’s look a bit at human population. One might assume that the higher and more dense the human population, the higher rate of auto collision deaths of deer. York County is the second most populated county in Maine and third highest in people per square mile. But it doesn’t appear auto collisions have much factor in deer mortality, in relationship to harvest data.
Last year’s hunt saw a harvest of 175 deer; this from a county with nearly 200,000 people or, 1,271 square miles of area = 155 people per square mile. We don’t know the deer population over the past 5 or so years but claims are the harvest has remained consistent or risen. Can we conclude deer population has risen? No, because we have to know number of licensed hunters over the years and participation rates. Probably they are at least somewhat consistent over the years.
Let’s combine habitat and predation together. Deer require the basics of food supply and protective cover – from predation and harsh winter weather, as well as normal activity. In York County, the winters are less severe and therefore the deer don’t require dense, high-canopied deer wintering areas. Deer also are not stupid and they will seek out the best places to live as it may pertain to food supply, protection from the elements and protection from predation.
It is no secret that wild animals, like deer, moose, elk, have migrated into the backyards of people living in higher human populated areas for a few reasons: better and more available food, protection from elements and to escape the constant threat of predation in all seasons, not just winter.
This is not a new phenomenon, although there might be more of it going on due to the over protection of large predators, loss of habitat, etc.
I’ve even provided photographs on this website of adult female moose, with their new-born calves taking up refuge in downtown areas, away from large predators, like wolves, coyotes, bears and mountain lions. The same can be said for elk.
If one were to read the book, “Early Maine Wildlife” by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving, you would soon discover that in journals and diaries, as well as newspapers, dating back as early as the 1600s, deer migrated from the northern climes of the state of Maine, many of them taking up residence on the many islands off the coast of Maine. This migration, even back then, was attributed to the harassment of wolves and other large predators, in combination with harsh winters and an eroding of habitat.
So, when people read articles like the one linked to above, it would be helpful to all concerned if a bit more explanation went into the complexities of understanding deer populations and causes of mortality, which greatly affects the habits of deer.
Compiled By Mark Latti with IFW Wildlife Biologists
Region A – Southern Lakes Region
“We are at numbers that we usually have at the end of the season, all our registration stations are up in numbers,” says IFW wildlife biologist Scott Lindsay, who has seen a lot of deer and deer hunters as this deer season continues.
“Everyone has been very positive about the season, and we are getting a lot of favorable comments from hunters,” says Lindsay.
Lindsay added that all the positive comments are not necessarily from successful hunters. Many hunters are seeing deer but being selective.
“We had one hunter who said that in Buckfield over a period of a half dozen days, he saw several deer that he could have taken, but he was waiting for a larger buck to show,” said Lindsay.
And there have been larger bucks showing up as well. Lindsay said they are seeing several deer a week in the 240-pound range, with lots of fat in the hips and the shoulders. He said the big ones have been tagged throughout the region, mentioning towns such as Wells, Waterboro and Hartford as successful locations.
“Deer are going into the winter in very good shape,” said Lindsay.
Region B – Central and Midcoast Area
In central Maine, hunting conditions remain excellent.
“Things have been robust as far as quantity and quality,” said IFW wildlife biologist Keel Kemper, who said that numbers continue to be up throughout the region.
As is typical of the third week, Kemper said he saw a drop in the numbers this week. Last week was busy with excellent weather for hunting and the Veterans Day Holiday. Earlier this week, three straight windy days decreased hunter effort and slowed deer movement.
Kemper estimates that he will examine approximately 500 deer this year. While the specific timing of the rut is difficult to pin down, judging by what he is seeing and hearing from hunters, we are coming into the rut if we are not already there.
While things may have slowed down this week, Kemper expects to see a surge in hunters and the number of deer tagged during the Thanksgiving week.
Region C — Downeast
Downeast, hunters in the coastal district are having a lot of success.
“In WMD 27 along the coast, the number of deer taken is an recent high. Tagging stations are already ahead of last year’s totals with a big week still to go,” said IFW wildlife biologist Tom Schaeffer.
While success in the coastal WMD has been strong, Schaeffer notes that as you head into the Downeast interior, success rates start to drop, and the deer kill in WMDs 28 and 19 is more on par with recent years. Overall, however, numbers are either at the average or above the average of the last five years. There are other positive signs as well.
“The yearling take is quite noticeable,” said Schaeffer, “and we are seeing good numbers of 2 and a half year old deer as well.” Schaeffer said that means there is decent winter survival of last year’s fawn crop which bodes well for the future.
“A good number made it through last winter and through the hunting season as well,” said Schaeffer.
Schaeffer has handled a number of deer this year, and has noticed a number of traditional crotch and spike horn bucks for yearlings. All are in decent shape and in condition. He also noted that tooth replacement seems advanced this year, but feels that could be due in part to the later calendar season, which is a week later than most years.
Region D – Rangeley Lakes and Western Mountains
Up in Region D, while there may not be the number of deer that are south of there, hunters are certainly bagging some large deer.
“Deer numbers have been steady, and I have seen 10-15 deer that are over 200 pounds,” said IFW wildlife biologist Bob Cordes.
One thing that Cordes did note is that he has been seeing big deer throughout the season.
“They’ve been coming in steady, from youth day right into this week,” said Cordes.
IFW wildlife biologist Chuck Hulsey has been traveling through the region, taking biological samples from deer, and he had several observations.”
“Seems like we are seeing a higher percentage of nonresident hunters than we have seen recently,” said Hulsey. He hasn’t been seeing a lot of hunters, but the hunters he has seen have been generally very positive.
“We aren’t getting a lot of complaints, and that tells me the season is going well,” said Hulsey, who noted that when it’s not going well, he tends to hear from quite a few hutners.
Region E – Moosehead Region
Good things are happening up in the Moosehead region, where all the area tagging stations are showing an increase in numbers over the past few years.
“Some tagging stations are up by as much as 20 percent,” said IFW wildlife biologist Doug Kane. “Kokadjo is up, and it has been like a desert up there the last few years.”
Kane thinks that the region hasn’t rebounded all the way back for the harsh winters of ’08 and ’09, but “people are happy because they are seeing deer.”
The big bucks are starting to show up in the harvest as well, as there was one 15-pointer that was shot in the southern part of The County, and it topped out at over 260 pounds.
Kane, who is gathering biological data from a number of harvested deer, is pleased with what he’s seen as far as age structure of the harvest as well.
“The yearling and 2-and-a-half year old numbers are really strong. The two-and-a-half year olds are really showing in the rut,” said Kane who says this bodes well for numbers in the spring.
The rut is in full swing as well. Kane remarked about an interesting observation. He was at the tagging station at Indian Hill last Friday, he handled three bucks, and all three were shot between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. All were out chasing down does in the middle of the morning.
“I have never seen anything so marked as that,” said Kane. “I am hearing a lot of stories about bucks chasing does.” Kane also cautioned hunters not to get confused if the bucks seem to stop moving. He said that when does are in peak estrus, there isn’t much movement, but just before and just after is when you get the peak movement for bucks.
Region F – Penobscot Region
“All our registration stations are way above where they have been the last few years,” remarked IFW wildlife biologist Allen Starr who said that deer totals for the season include over 80 deer registered in Hudson, over 100 in Corinth and the Katahdin General store in Millinocket tagged over 60.
One of the reasons for the many success stories is that the weather has cooperated with hunters.
“All in all it has been pretty good conditions for hunters,” said Starr, who noted that while earlier this week it had been pretty windy, the cold, clear weather boded well for hunters later this week.
Starr said the deer he has seen have all been in very good condition. He saw a nice nine pointer that topped out just under 200 pounds (198.5) that was shot in the Katahdin Iron Works area. Perhaps more interesting was a large yearling Starr checked, that was five points with nice thick antlers.
Starr also sent this picture of a happy hunter who bagged this big buck in the western part of the region, a 230 pound, ten pointer.
Region G – The County
Up in the County, a very successful deer season continues.…
“I would say that deer registrations are up by 75-100% over the last few years,” said IFW Wildlife Biologist Rich Hoppe who noted that Ben’s in Presque Isle was up over 100% from last year with still a week to go. “Hunter effort is up, and success rates are up.”
Hoppe has examined a number of the harvested deer, and has come away impressed.
“The deer are in excellent shape headed into this year’s winter. What we noted with moose, with the exceptional weight and antler growth, also seems to be reflected in the deer,” said Hoppe.
“The excellent habitat and mild winters have enabled deer to maintain optimal body condition with high fat reserves,” said Hoppe. “This will serve them well going into winter and should translate into higher survival rates.”
Hunting conditions have also been very good as well. During the week of Veterans Day, there was snow on the ground Monday through Wednesday. Hoppe said he saw lots of hunters who took advantage of the excellent conditions to spend some time tracking deer.
If you’ve already tagged out or would rather chase grouse than deer, Hoppe added that there still is some excellent bird hunting in the western part of the region.
Hitting a deer with an automobile is no laughing matter. Serious injury could result. According to the latest talking points at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW), the deer population in Maine has “rebounded” to somewhere considerably below long-term averages. However, MDIFW is so proud of what “global warming” has done for them they can’t help themselves but to brag about it.
But now, the media, MDIFW’s parroting company, appears to be the town crier extolling the dangers of too many deer, or at least a bigger deer herd and that deer and auto collisions are on the rise.
It is that time of year when male whitetail deer have uncontrolled sex on their minds, and for those who know and us that try to remember, when the brain is focused on such activities, the result oftentimes can get a man or a deer into trouble. Deer are most active during the rut and as a result the mixture of active deer and busy highways sometimes result in crashes. By the way, the rut is in full swing right now.
According to one article in the Bangor Daily News, the Waldo County Sheriff’s Office has issued a warning to drivers about deer on the loose. 43 collisions with deer have occurred in 30 days in Waldo County and the sheriff wants people to know about it and to slow down and drive defensively. Good advice!
In the same newspaper, another article blames the increase in deer collisions on, “a rebounding population of white-tailed deer in the last couple of years.” That may be true (or perhaps those evil bear baiters are dumping deer Viagra in their bait piles causing deer to …… well, you get the idea.).
There is a very big HOWEVER that goes with this second article and, well, I just can’t help myself. The only thing I’ve ever heard so ridiculous and somewhat relevant was when my son, who at the time might have been 5 or 6 years old, reacted to my order for him to buckle up his seat belt. His reply was, “I will. When I see that we are going to get into an accident, I’ll buckle up.”
Here are the exact words written in the Bangor Daily News article.
The Maine DOT encourages drivers to be especially alert at night, while driving through forested or rural areas and when they see one deer, which is likely to be followed by others. If a crash is unavoidable, drivers should brake, then let up on the brake just before impact. They should aim to hit the tail end of the animal and, if possible, duck to minimize injury in case the deer strike the windshield.(emphasis added)
As the saying goes, you can’t make this stuff up. I have but one comment and I’ll leave the rest to readers: If there is time to do all of this, wouldn’t the collision become avoidable?
I find little to laugh about in this video. The humans, albeit ignorant as hell, see this entire event as hilariously funny. They are ignorant of the ways of deer and stupid to approach the deer in the first place. Fortunately, at least for the humans, there was no harm done as history has shown that a rutting buck can beat the hell out of a human, even goring them with their antlers.
I would conclude that the actions of the humans are the result of indoctrination and the humanization of animals factor beat into the brains of our children.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife can hype the return of the state’s whitetail deer herd all they want, but I’m here to tell you that in the area where I have hunted whitetail deer annually for near 40 years, it remains bleak. In addition, the forests are mostly void of much wildlife.
This hunting season I covered more territory in Maine deer hunting than I have in several of the past years. I felt pretty good and my back and left leg seemed to be cooperating this year. Personally, I spent perhaps close to or above 40 hours hunting, almost never sitting and absolutely no time sitting in a tree stand. That’s not my thing. I grew up a stalker or still hunter and I shall probably die a stalker/still hunter.
As far as deer are concerned, I actually spotted 2 deer and heard one running away (boy was I dumb on that particular hunt). I had no special permits and therefore was restricted to the harvesting of antlered deer only. Neither deer that I saw could I positively identify as having any antlers. Both deer live another season.
While seeing only 2 deer in 40 hours of hunting is embarrassingly dismal, it is 2 more than I have seen in the past 5 years. So, perhaps there is hope for the future.
In roughing out some figures, I would estimate that total hunter participation was around 200 hours of hunting time. Of that 200 hours very few (maybe 6 hours) were spent in a tree stand. If my calculations are correct a total of 9 deer were spotted and some of those were the same deer. No shots fired.
That’s pretty pathetic when you stop and think about it. That’s over 250 years of whitetail deer hunting experience in the woods of Maine and nothing to even tell for stories.
To be honest, let me make sure readers understand that I am talking about the area I hunt, comprising perhaps as many as 700 – 1,000 acres in Western Maine. It is my understanding from some reports that deer in Southern Maine and portions of Central Maine are plentiful and hunters are having good success. This is not the case for Western Maine.
As a matter of fact, the forests in this region are void; the sounds of silence always echoing about. It’s eerie.
In the near 40 years I have hunted these woods, I have always enjoyed stopping to sit on a rock or a stump and just listening to and taking in the life of the forest around me. On more than one occasion I have had chick-a-dees land on the visor of my hat as I sat perfectly still. On this trip, it was a rare event to hear or spot Maine’s official bird.
40 hours in the woods and I spotted an occasional chick-a-dee, 2 blue jays, I heard one pileated woodpecker in the distance, saw or heard 6 ruffed grouse and 2 red squirrels. One afternoon I hunted down in front of the camp, what once was pastureland, along the edge of a swamp and for about 3 hours I never heard one sound…..not one! It was deathly quiet. A clear day, little to no wind, plenty of sunshine and moderate temperatures and not so much as a bird or creature of any kind moving about. It was quite uncanny.
While I never heard the baying of coyotes at night, everywhere that I traveled there was always coyote scat laying under foot. This was never the case in years prior to the dogs’ infiltration, and like many other long-time Maine hunters, I can only conclude what is logical: the coyotes presence has turned the woods into a useless place for wildlife to dwell and hunters to hunt.
Photo by Tom Remington