January 21, 2019

When Deer Management Seems Stupid

According to an article published at the Bangor Daily News website, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) are in the fifth year of a deer collaring study. Most of us know that MDIFW has been extremely secretive about the study and any results they have received and collected from this effort.

The article states the following: “At this point, Bieber is still in the data-gathering phase of the study, which has been aided by the cooperation of the University of Maine, the University of New Brunswick, J.D. Irving Ltd., the Passamaquoddy Nation and the Quality Deer Management Association.

He looks forward to a time when the department can use the data that is being collected to formulate management decisions. To date, the data that has been gathered in the GPS study has not been utilized in management efforts.

“Every year when we allocate for [any-deer] permits, we do make adjustments based on winter severity. It’ll be nice to be able to look back on what we’ve done in the past and see if those decisions were sound. And if not, we’ll be able to adjust according to the data that we have now,” Bieber said.”

Does this make much of sense? Why would the gathering of data for at least 4 years be disregarded in any deer management decisions? The last paragraph says that when the MDIFW allocates “Any-Deer Permits” (ADP) they make adjustments based on “winter severity.” And yet this study is mostly aimed at determining the affects of winter severity as well as other mortality causes.

This past deer hunting season, the state allocated a record number of ADPs, and now we are learning the decision to do so was NOT based at all on any data obtained over the past 4 years from their study on the effects of winter severity? Why does that not make much sense at all?

For those who spend a great deal of time studying and following such things as deer management, it’s easy to determine that management decisions made at the department level run a minimum of three years behind actual events taking place on the ground. This effort not only substantiates that claim but extends that fault out to at least five years. Isn’t that one of the biggest problems with game management? Of course it is. And yet, the MDIFW has at least four years of winter severity data on whitetail deer and according to Maine’s head deer biologist, none of that data is being used and was not used in deciding to allot a record number of ADPs for last deer hunting season.

We live in an era of instant information availability. How many decades has it taken the MDIFW to take advantage of this reality to finally put together a digital, online tagging system that gives managers instant data? And now, managers are receiving real time data from their collaring study and for at least four years are not using the data. How many decades will it take at the conclusion of this study before any of that data will be implemented into management decisions?

Perhaps all of the decisions made for managing deer are based solely on social demands with no consideration for scientific data. If so, why doesn’t MDIFW stop wasting their time and our money with senseless “studies?”

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

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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Hipsters Are The New Hunters?

A group of veteran hunters set out last month in a forest northeast of Atlanta with apprentices. Among them, a former vegetarian, a Haitian-born grad student and a farmers-market manager. They wore camouflage and carried crossbows.

They were aiming to kill white-tailed deer.<<<Read More>>>> (Subscription required)

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Please Name The Benefits

When the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife announced earlier this year that their migration to a new digital tagging system, they told in their press release that this move was going to be very beneficial to hunters. I wondered.

The other day I read another outdoor writer make the statement that this new tagging system, if done properly, would “…allow for even more opportunities that benefit recreational hunters, as well.”

Inquiring minds want to know just how this is going to benefit hunters and provide more “opportunities?”

I think I can guess that if this new system was “done properly,” in other words allowed for the growth and sustainability of all game species for ample surplus harvest, it could be a benefit. But really?

Any help would be appreciated. You can add comments below.

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Failure To Distinguish One Form Of Insanity From Another

It’s disgusting! A Missouri man kills deer, takes their heads, and leaves the rest to rot. This is against the law and is a reflection of the insanity that exists in this secular society we have created. This is insane!

On the other hand, as part of this man’s punishment, he is forced to watch the movie Bambi at least once a month while in jail. Now, where exactly does the insanity lie?

If you don’t know or understand this, I’m sorry.

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HURRAH! Maine Provides Deer Harvest Total

For the first time ever, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has provided interested hunters with a pretty close estimate of what the total deer harvest was for 2018. This total includes all the seasons – 32,438. Wonderful.

According to the Bangor Daily News, the majority of the increase in deer harvest happened in Central and Southern Maine where a record number of “Any-Deer Permits” (ADP) were issued, much to the chagrin of many who thought that increase, coming at a time when Maine is struggling to sustain a healthy viable deer population, was unwise. Nothing can be extrapolated from these early numbers as to the effects of a record number of ADPs and the real effect on the deer herds in Central and Southern Maine.

It should be a marvelous thing that hunters and other interested people can, while fresh in their minds, gain a better understanding of what just took place and carry that interest forward to following deer seasons. The way MDIFW has operated in the past by not providing any information on deer harvest has left many hunters with a feeling that MDIFW doesn’t care. Regardless of the reasons MDIFW failed to provide information that would have helped to give hunters a greater sense of ownership and involvement in deer management, hopefully that ancient and closed-mouth approach is history as MDIFW has entered the modern technological world when it comes to tabulating deer harvest.

What I am wondering is if MDIFW will provide the public with more information from these numbers – areas of increased harvest and why. Surely, with a record number of ADPs issued, one should expect the deer harvest would have had an increase. In addition, snow to hunt on for a good portion of the season had to have directly contributed to the increase. Let’s hope the increase harvest happened in those areas that MDIFW claims needed to be reduced and we haven’t further deteriorated a struggling deer herd.

We are all thankful for MDIFW getting this new technology into place. Now let’s keep the ball rolling and continue to improve on this. I have mentioned before that biologists and managers have access to essentially realtime tagging data. It should be with ease that MDIFW can place a page on their website where interested people can log in and view that same realtime data. The more that MDIFW can keep the interest of hunters growing, it will be a win-win for everyone. Let us more easily have access to that information. What’s to hide? 

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Ayuh! A Biggun! Wicked Lotta Hohns Too!

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Too Many Deer Being Harvested?

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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A Most Different Thanksgiving

Yesterday, I awoke around 5 a.m. to -2 degrees F. Need I remind readers it is only November? With around 16 inches of snow on the ground and the wind whipping at times to 25 miles per hour, I’m not such a die-hard whitetail deer hunter, anymore, that I felt inspired to get out in this crap. Instead, I journeyed east on a three-hour car ride for Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends.

My eighteen-year-old Florida van, that has never seen salt or any temperatures below 32 degrees, made some of the darndest noises as it mumbled and grumbled in protest even louder than I was. I kept asking questions like, what the heck is that noise and consoling the old girl telling her it will be okay. You’ll be back in Florida in a couple of weeks, and I’ll give you a nice bath.

As in most any car, regardless of its age, riding on frozen Maine highways makes you think something has seriously happened to the suspension. By the time I got to my destination, I got a rush of memories of winters of many years gone by when I spotted the dark brown globs of frozen slush directly behind each wheel. The frozen reminders of nastiness were all large enough that the tires themselves kept the size shaved down, and each time I hit a “frost heave” or a pothole, the compression of the vehicle kept the bottoms of each mini iceberg from growing beyond its maximum.

As I drove along the highway, carefully monitoring my engine temperature gauge wondering if I have the right mixture of coolant/antifreeze to keep the engine from freezing, I began to reminisce about what the sides of the roads used to look like on Thanksgiving Day – each old logging road would have a car or truck parked in it, as hunters have hit the woods. In my 3-hour journey, mostly covering back roads, I saw none. I took notice of all vehicles I spotted, looking for “hunter orange” clothing – hats, vests, jackets, even the now shied away from rifle racks for fear of “offending” someone. I saw three that I suspected were going to or coming from hunting.

Is this the case because it was so cold? It’s been cold before. Is it because it was a holiday? Isn’t it a Maine tradition for hunting families to have Thanksgiving dinner after dark because the daytime is spent trying in near desperation to fill that tag? Or maybe there just aren’t many people left who hunt – perhaps because there are so few deer left, getting motivated to hunt in the cold is extremely difficult to do.

It’s Friday morning now. The temperature on my deck thermometer reads 10 degrees – “We’re having a heat wave!” There are today and tomorrow and then the deer hunting season draws to an end. I’m struggling to reason and to find excuses I guess. There’s snow to hunt on but it’s a bit deep and crusty/crunchy. It is also cold to be out long.

What to do? I leave for Florida for the winter in just a few days. Do I want to shoot a deer and then rush around to get the deer processed? I’ve frozen the meat and packed it in ice for the trip to Florida before, but I’m not sure I want to do that again.

The forecast says Saturday, the last day, high temps here are to reach a balmy 33 degrees.

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day for us fair-weather fairies to take one more whack at it.

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Carry In, Carry Out

Carry In

Carry Out

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