A Report/Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:
FW Hunting Report for September 30, 2014
Southern Lakes Region – Region A
In Region A, October 1 marks the beginning of pheasant season, and IFW biologists and clubs have been busy releasing birds throughout the region.
“We had our first pheasant release on Monday, and we have two other releases planned for October 5 and October 19,” said IFW Wildlife Biologist Corey Stearns. Stearns said that over 40 birds were released at each of the 22 sites, releasing over 880 birds so far in the region.
Releasing the pheasants before the season, or on a Sunday during the season, gives the birds some time to acclimate to their surroundings. Over the course of the season, both the department and area Rod and Gun clubs will release over 2300 birds at 22 different sites.
Hunters are reminded that they must purchase a pheasant hunting permit. Proceeds from the permit go directly to fund the pheasant program. For more information on the pheasant program and a list of release sites, please visit: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting_trapping/hunting/pheasant.htm
In other news, Brownfield Bog has been busy with waterfowl hunters, and upland hunters might want to check out the western portion of the Brownfield Bog Wildlife Management Area which offers good habitat for grouse.
Turkey hunters are also gearing up. While Stearns mentioned that the number of broods seems to be lower this year, he is still seeing quite a few turkeys right now.
“There is still plenty of opportunities for turkey hunters, and there seems to be more people talking about it,” said Stearns, who reminds hunters that you can take two turkeys this fall on the permit you purchased in the spring.
Central and Midcoast Maine
If you are looking to go grouse hunting on opening day in central Maine, bird hunters ought to find a reasonable number of birds.
“Average May rainfall generally means an average bird crop,” said IFW Wildlife Biologist Keel Kemper. “So I am expecting that hunters should see reasonable numbers of birds in Central Maine.”
If you are looking for a spot to hunt, you should visit Frye Mountain, one of the Department’s many wildlife management areas. Frye Mountain possesses an excellent network of roads, and is managed with selective cutting for varying ages of young forests.
If waterfowl is your passion, it should be a good early season in central Maine.
“Word on ducks is that there’s a good acorn crop which means better than average wood duck shooting. Teal are already showing up at Merrymeeting Bay,” says Kemper. “There will also be some good mallard hunting on the Kennebec and Sebasticook when the time comes.”
Kemper also noted that there are lots of migrant geese in local fields around Unity but very few hunters. Take the time to ask for permission and you can have some outstanding hunting.
With a wet early spring and summer, and higher water levels into July, expectations for birds are fair to moderate Downeast.
“It wasn’t a washout, but it certainly wasn’t the best nesting season that we’ve seen,” said IFW wildlife biologist Tom Schaeffer.
If you are looking to go turkey hunting this fall, there are some new opportunities in the Downeast region. Check out WMDs 19 and 28.
“Along the coastal plain in Hancock and Washington Counties, the spring numbers seemed down. However, that is not the case as you move more into the interior where the numbers look pretty favorable,” said Schaeffer.
During spring waterfowl brood counts, Schaeffer noted decent waterfowl broods, and expects hunters to have a good season.
A check of area tagging stations has the bear numbers below last year, even with hunter numbers looking pretty good. Looks like hunters had success early, but with what seems to be a low volume of natural foods, bears have denned up early.
Schaeffer noted that a few hunters have had success with the resident goose season, as some hunters have enjoyed decent numbers on a few local fields.
Rangeley Lakes and Western Mountains Region
In the Rangeley and western mountain regions, bird season is set to begin.
“While it didn’t seem to be a particularly bad spring, our waterfowl numbers were off,” said IFW wildlife biologist Chuck Hulsey. “If I had to venture a guess on grouse, I would have to say it looks about average.”
Turkey hunters in the southern part of the region are likely to see lower numbers of birds this spring.
“Our turkey numbers are down, as they were hit hard by the winter,” said Hulsey, who added that over recent winters, he has been averaging between one and four complaints from area farmers. This past winter? Not a one.
IFW regional Wildlife biologist Doug Kane has seen a good number of birds in his travels this summer, and hunters should be happy with what he’s seen.
“I always look at clutch sizes for an indicator of what we’ll see in the fall, because once these chicks start flying, mortality goes way down,” says Kane.
Most of the clutches he saw at flight stage this year numbered between three and six chicks.
“When we have had the great grouse years, I see clutch sizes that are more than five,” said Kane. “This year, I saw a lot of clutches that were 4-5.”
With the cooler weather settling in last week, Kane started seeing more birds.
“It was like someone flipped a switch, they just started showing up on the roads, both the bigger birds and the younger birds,” said Kane. “It should be a pretty good year.”
Turkey hunters are getting ready in the southern part of the region, and even though the numbers for this spring might have been down, things look good for the fall.
“Both turkeys and grouse seemed to nest well. There was plenty of rain, but it was not extended, and it was usually followed by warmer weather so the chicks and poults could handle the cold,” said Kane.
Bear season is slowing down in the Moosehead region, as Kane says, for when they are getting ready to den, they are traveling less.
“Most of the natural foods are gone, bears are heavy and they seem to be ready to den earlier in this non-beech nut year,” said Kane.
And if you are excited about deer season, Kane says the number of deer he has seen is very good, boding well for the upcoming season.
If you are looking to go grouse hunting in the Penobscot region, it looks to be a good season, not great. According to IFW wildlife biologist Mark Caron, sightings have been consistent through the summer.
“It can be hard to predict. I have heard from Patten and north of there from people training dogs that there are good broods. It was not a great hatch in our area,” said Caron. “Once thing is for sure, once the leaves come off, things get better,” said Caron.
Page Farm, with its improved network of roads is a popular destination for grouse and woodcock. It provides steady hunting right through October.
If you are looking to go turkey hunting, you can now hunt the fall in Wildlife Management Districts 10, 11 and 19. There is one bird limit for those areas. Caron says turkey habitat is a little better in 11 than in 19.
How waterfowl hunters will fare can be more difficult to assess, as there are so many different waters in the region for hunters to hunt.
“There’s plenty of beaver bogs and backwaters, and usually early on the hunting can be pretty good,” said Caron. He added that it can be busy on the first day, but it usually quiets down after that.
If you are looking to go bird hunting, you may want to head north.
“All indications in our area is that the grouse season should be good to excellent,” said Rich Hoppe, IFW wildlife biologist. “I’ve been talking with sportsman, and most people have been seeing a lot of birds.”
Hoppe said that with the great spring and summer, survivorship has been high, there have been good numbers of broods, and by all indications, there is not as much mortality as years passed.
Northern Maine is increasingly becoming a destination for bird hunters from throughout the northeast and beyond. Sporting camps are becoming increasingly filled during the month of October.
As far as waterfowl, Hoppe added that he’s seen more ducks than normal for this time of year, and it has been great weather. While there aren’t a lot of waterfowl hunters in the region, it is a great destination for waterfowl hunters, for those who do come north find a lot of success.