August 18, 2019

Maine’s 2013 Deer Harvest Comparative Figures

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, on Friday, released their deer harvest data which showed a 15% increase, which on first glance appears to be the result of an increase in “Any-Deer Permits” issued prior to the season. (the data has yet to be published on the MDIFW website.)

Below is a table prepared by my in-house statistician that shows information for 2013, some of it preliminary, and how that data compares with previous years.

After I have had a chance to thoroughly examine the harvest data, I will, more than likely, file a report on my findings.

DeerHarvest2013

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Time to Get the Deer Data Done or Get Off the Pot

While Wisconsin, for example, has their hunting harvest data completed, in a timely fashion, and that is ancient history, they are working on assessing the severity of this season’s winter kill.

For Maine…..Silence….Crickets….Failure to even get out the deer harvest data in their usual months long delay. Time to $#!^ or get off the pot. I’m guessing they got a good handle on piping plovers though. Maine’s Plan for Deer Piping Plovers

GetOffPot

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New York State Bear Harvest Summary

Follow this link to a short story about the successes of New York bear hunters. Here also you will find what the DEC in New York is calling a bear harvest “summary.” I’ve seen full reports that weren’t as detailed and filled with information. What a fantastic tool for outdoor sportsmen who are interested enough to have data look at to better understand what’s going on.

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Unity College Collects Bear Data, Shares With MDIFW

The Bangor Daily News has run a news story of how students from Unity College in Maine, as part of an ongoing black bear study, are collecting bear data in the middle of winter and sharing their information with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The story and pictures can be found here.

I have two quick comments to make about this story. First, this comment as reported by the Bangor Daily News from Lisa Bates, a biology technician.

This bear is about twice as big as the average Maine bear her age, according to Bates. That size is consistent with bears found in this area and is likely because there was plenty of food available during the summer and fall.

Please understand what she is saying. She says this particular bear is about two times bigger than the “average Maine bear her age.” Does that not tell us that the size of a bear must have something to do with geographic location?

She further states that even though this bear is twice the average size, it’s “consistent with bears found in this area.” So, why are bears in the region where Unity College students are studying them bigger than the state average?

Bates explains that it, “is likely because there was plenty of food available during the summer and fall.” Note that she did not say that there are millions of pounds of jelly donuts scattered all over the Unity area that’s making the bears fat.

Ignorant animal rights perverts are laying claim that if bear hunters would stop feeding bears through baiting stations, there wouldn’t be so many bears. Of course they have no data to prove such a claim, because there isn’t any.

The second comment I want to make about this report has to do with the use of a chainsaw to cut a big square hole in the middle of the tree the bear was hibernating in in order to extract the bear to collect data. Is this a common practice?

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Media Mantra Says Maine’s Deer Harvest Has Increase

deerdeepsnowMedia 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.

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It’s the Meat, Stupid!

New Research Shows Hunters Increasingly Motivated by the Meat

Reasons Include the Recession, the Locavore Movement, and More Women Hunting

HARRISONBURG, Va. – Recent national and state-level research conducted by Responsive Management reveals that obtaining meat is an increasingly important motivation among American hunters to go afield. “While there are several reasons for this growth in the segment of hunters who engage in hunting for utilitarian reasons, several of Responsive Management’s new studies make clear that the trend is widespread and unmistakable,” explains Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management, who managed the research studies.<<<Read the Rest>>>

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2012 Maine Deer Harvest Statistics

You will notice on the below chart the question being asked if big bucks in Maine are beginning to make a comeback. While the data presented indicate an increase in the number of 200-pound and greater bucks taken as a percentage of the total harvest, one should probably not jump to too many conclusions. Bucks’ weight is determined by many things, as has been historically, in which we will see small fluctuations up and down. There’s always the possibility as well that a larger size buck, if it relates to a slightly older or more mature deer, may be an indication of an aging deer population which may not be such a good thing.

However, a slight uptick in deer harvest and percentage of large bucks taken, generally speaking and all factors relative, can be taken as probably positive signs.

bigbucks2012
Chart and data compiled by a contributor and researcher for TomRemington.com

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Is Maine’s Whitetail Deer Age Structure Changing?

*Editor’s Note* The graph and information below was crafted by contributor Richard Paradis from information provided by me in addition to his own information.

One of the most telling events that can occur in a deer herd is a change in age structure. In brief, age structure is a dynamic investigation into the complete breakdown of how many deer make up specific age categories. We are often discussing the relationship between male and female deer as well as the number of fawns (new born) in relation to the number of adult female deer. Seldom, or at least not to the same degree, is the age structure of a deer herd discussed.

A well educated and experienced biologist, providing they have been able to collect the necessary data, can tell what percentage of a deer herd makes up fawns; up to 1 and 1/2 years of age, young deer; 1 and 1/2 to 3 and 1/2 years old, and mature deer; over 3 and 1/2 years. The same biologist should know, according to the geographic information, as well as available habitat, etc. what the age structure of a herd should be in order to classify it as healthy and to make determinations as to what any harvest should be like for the upcoming hunting season based on herd structure and trends.

There can also be certain movements in that age structure that can indicate to the biologist that something is changing, alerting them to the need to investigate what those influences might be and make changes to the management strategies to maintain a viable and healthy herd.

Some people believe that in order to destroy a deer herd, something has to kill off all the deer, adults included. This is not entirely true. In theory, if there were never any new born deer to add to the herd and in combination with all other mortality to the deer herd, how long do you think it would be before the deer herd disappeared? Not long.

In this kind of scenario, an examination of the age structure might alert us to what could be happening. For the sake of discussion, let’s say a healthy deer herd looked something like this: fawn recruitment, that is the percentage of new born fawns that live to see their first winter, is 20% of the herd; Young deer, 1 and 1/2 – 3 and 1/2 years 50% and mature deer 30%.

In an attempt to keep this as simple as possible, let’s say that with the above situation of 20%, 50% and 30%, the average age of the deer is 2.9 years. If you played around with those percentages you would soon discover that it takes quite a dramatic change in those percentages to effect a noticeable move in the average deers’ age.

As an example, let’s say that in one year, the fawn recruitment was wiped out, i.e. 0%. That would increase the average age of the deer to approximately 3.3 years (I divided the 20% loss evenly between the remaining two age groups). Notice that what appears to be a rather small change in average age (less that 1/2 year), a complete loss of fawn recruitment is a devastating event. If we carried that out for a few years, where fawn recruitment remained at 0%, we can see that the age of the deer herd gets older and older. Once this is discovered, trust me, I think the deer herd is in trouble.

As far as Maine’s age structure for deer, I don’t have the kind of data necessary to calculate age structure and I’m not sure whether the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) does either. I am assuming they must. What I did do is to extract some of the data that MDIFW provides in their deer harvest information to use to see if there can be determined any trends in age structure.

All that is available on the MDIFW website is harvest information beginning in 2005 through 2011. In each of these reports, MDIFW provides in their harvest data the percentage of take based on the same age classifications I have used above, i.e. fawn, young and mature. I pulled out of these reports those percentages and listed them by year. Mr. Paradis was kind enough to compile them into a graph for better visual comparison.

However, bear in mind a few things. The data extracted may not be a clear representation of the entire herd of Maine’s deer. This is harvest data only and there are restrictions to the sex and age of what deer can be taken and in what geographical regions. Therefore, the only way we can make good comparisons is with the ability to compare those items that remain constant.

In theory, if we had for these seven years the same number of “Any-Deer Permits” in all the same regions, this harvest data would be a bit more accurate and reliable for my purposes. However, the changes in the issuing of Any-Deer Permits did not change drastically statewide until 2009 when Any-Deer Permits were halted in Northern, Western and Downeast Maine and again for the 2011 deer hunting season. As such, I’m not sure exactly how to use harvest data for 2010 and 2011 in comparison with all previous years.

From the graphs and information below, you can clearly see the percentage of Young and Mature deer taken for each of the years listed, 2005-2011. Over the span of the seven years, the average percentage of Young deer harvested is 46.4% and for Mature deer, 20.4%.

Not really knowing how to handle the 2010, 2011 harvest data, one could conclude that there is a slight trend upward in the age structure according to harvest information. Is this something to be concerned about. I would think so. Is MDIFW keeping an eye on this data and any trends? I certainly hope so. If the age structure of Maine’s deer herd is on the increase, there has to be a reason, which is generally related directly to fawn recruitment. Without good fawn recruitment a deer herd is doomed. Depending upon the severity of that loss, will determine how quickly a herd becomes decimated.

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Maine’s Big Bucks: Getting Smaller as Number Harvested Declines?

*Update* – March 1, 2012 – I will add the updated chart below that includes data from 2008 which was not available at the time of the original posting.

*Editor’s Note* All the information in this post was compiled by TomRemington.com contributor, Richard Paradis of Maine.

In 2009 I did a four-part series entitled, “Does Maine Have a Deer Management Problem?” (find links to the other parts in the “Related Links” at the bottom of the page.) In this expose I examined information I had received from the Maine Antler & Skull Trophy Club. It was expressed to me at the time that the harvest of trophy (rack and body weight) bucks in Maine had not only been significantly reduced in numbers but that it was not proportional to the overall decrease in deer harvested. From the information I had available to me at that time, I was able to show that the number of trophy bucks harvested did, in fact, mirror the overall trend in deer harvest statewide.

With Richard Paradis’ time to put together trophy deer body weight data and make a comparison for 5 or the past 6 years, it appears that again, number of trophy deer harvested closely follows in proportion to overall harvest. While some may view this as bad (of course we all want more deer to hunt.), it should tell us that the health of the deer herd, at least in terms of size, seems to be not be effected or is having an effect on the overall health and size of the herd.

Folks have been wondering whether Maine’s big bucks were getting fewer (they are) and whether they are getting smaller (not appreciably according to this small set of data). The counts are from a review of the Biggest Bucks in Maine entries from the Maine Sportsman magazine from 5 of the past 6 years. What is obvious is that the bucks being taken are being killed further south in the state. I had always assumed that the end of the season was a more opportune time to get a big buck so hunting hard to the last day was a good plan. Maybe not so. Of course, the bucks lose weight as the rut goes into high gear so they will weigh a lot more on the first day of the season than the last day. The disparities between the numbers of entries in the five years is due to ties and the 2010 listing does not have dates with the top 10. I will try to look that up and fix it later on as well as uncover 2008 of the Maine Sportsman’s Biggest Bucks in Maine editions to see if there really has been a difference over the years.


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