August 22, 2019

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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Old Hunter says, “Maybe There’s a Connection Between Bad Management and Fewer Hunters

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And Maine’s Deer Harvest Data is………….?

Missing in action!!!

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5 Months for Maine IFW to Count 20,000 Deer

And then blame the poor harvest on “winter severity?” What to hell happened to global warming? We are all waiting for global warming to happen so there will be more deer….right? However, this time around it’s winter severity.

I also have another question for which I can’t substantiate an answer. In this report (link below) are listed all the “predictions” made by IFW about how many deer would be harvested and how many would be bucks and how many does, etc. Were those estimates made public before the season began or were they some sort of trade secret?

2015 Maine Deer Harvest Report

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How Accurate Are State Deer Harvest Estimates?

According to an article found at Outdoor Life“Hunters want it [deer harvest estimate] to be important, but they also don’t believe it. They say how can you know how many deer were killed if you didn’t check my deer? And that’s true. These estimates aren’t down to the individual deer, but scientifically this is an accurate and proven way to estimate deer harvest. Trends, though, are most important.”

It is my opinion that what hunters are interested in, at least initially, is a report from state wildlife officials as to the deer harvest, whether estimated or as accurate as it can be, in order to observe the trend taking place, and they don’t want to have to wait several months for that basic information. For those, like me, more interested in the actual harvest data, I understand having to wait a reasonable amount of time to get that data. For an “estimate” such guesses should be available within a few days of season closure.

But what of the science of deer management? If all wildlife officials are interested in is survey trends, I’m not so sure that I can have a lot of faith that the management plan is being laid out properly if the agency doesn’t know the population at any given point. There need be some kind of checks and balances in order to have confidence the modeling is working. Modeling has a poor track record. It would seem that using only trends would result in discovery too late in order to make adjustments.

Either way, the idea of the harvest estimates immediately concluding the deer hunting – or bear or moose, etc. – is for the hunters. It’s information they would like to have. It’s a way to inform them as to whether they are getting the best bang for their buck – pun intended.

HarvestEstimates

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Maine Deer Harvest Trends

A reader took the time to do some sampling of data taken over several years to help Maine hunters better understand deer harvest trends. Below you will find a blow-up of one squared-out region of Central Maine, numbered and labeled with town name. Within each of those boxes is a number that shows the number of deer harvested for 2014. You can see the entire map of Maine and the deer harvest report by visiting the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife webpage.

The second graph requires a bit of study. It shows certain comparisons of deer harvest, beginning in 2005 and up until the latest – 2014. The number of deer kills is taken from the Maine map and recorded according to the matching town. These numbers are then compared with other years by straight numbers and percentages. I found it very interesting.

2014TownDataHarvest
TownHarvestData
ToughFallDeer

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NY DEC finally releases 2014’s Big Game Harvest Stats – Maine Still on Vacation I Guess

With ten times the number of harvest deer to “count,” New York Beats Maine in releasing deer hunting harvest data.

Source: DEC finally releases 2014’s Big Game Harvest Stats – Press-Republican: Sports

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Counting Deer: Count Bucks, It’s Kind of the Best Way…Sort of…Maybe

When NPR asked a New Hampshire deer biologist how they went about guessing how many deer the state had, the answer was…well, it was…actually, I don’t know what the hell it was. But the response went like this:

For deer, this is the two-year running average of the adult buck-kill. That’s kind of what we use as an index to the trend in the population. That’s kind of the best index we have.

And that’s it? Go figure. Somebody correct me if I’m wrong but I have a strong suspicion that deer hunting in New Hampshire, and probably Maine and Vermont, generate the most income in order to fund each state’s fish and (no game, just) wildlife departments. And, this is the best explanation a deer biologist from New Hampshire could come up with to explain how counting deer is done.

Is it important to know how many deer each state has? Geez! I would think so. If you don’t know, how do you know how many deer should be killed each year? Is this one of the reasons deer populations in Northern New England are struggling? Maybe. Ask any biologist though and they’ll probably say it’s being caused by global warming. But let’s not get into that.

One might conclude that New Hampshire’s “model” of guessing is pretty pathetic. What it sounds to me that they do, is count the number of adult bucks harvested during the hunting season for two consecutive years. They use that data to somehow wave a magic wand and then after repeating the “magic” incantations, guess how many deer there are. That’s sad…isn’t it?

If you think that’s sad, then how damned sad is it when a state can’t even count to know how many adult buck deer were taken during a deer hunting season? That’s beyond sad. It’s down right pathetic.

As of this morning, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), has not posted on their website the harvest numbers from last November’s deer hunting season. God, we’ve all been down this road so many times, but nothing ever changes.

Some have asked me what difference does it make? I think it makes a lot of difference. Seriously, do I need to explain why? But forget what I think or whether you care. If Maine uses anything like New Hampshire’s methods, and they count adult buck deer killed to guesstimate deer populations, how can they responsibly manage deer – like how many “Any-Deer Permits” to issue if they can’t count deer?

So, I can only guess what is going on. Either MDIFW is terrible at managing deer or they won’t release the deer harvest numbers because they are hiding something. What else could it be? And, as an aside, MDIFW hasn’t posted the bear harvest data either.

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.
Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.
Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!
Round about the caldron go;
In the poison’d entrails throw.—
Toad, that under cold stone,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Swelter’d venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i’ the charmed pot!
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

ToilandTrouble

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Yearling Buck Kills Alter State’s Deer Herd

“By shooting so many juvenile bucks, Wisconsin hunters prevent deer herds from producing well-balanced age structures and buck-to-doe ratios. Wisconsin’s 2013 buck kill was comprised of 61 percent 1.5-year-olds, 24 percent 2.5-year-olds, and 15 percent 3.5-year-olds and older. Maine was the only other state with an equally low percentage of older bucks. Yearlings made up 53 percent of its buck harvest.

The 2013 national average for the yearling buck percentage was 36 percent, with Arkansas leading the country at 8 percent. Other states with few yearlings in the statewide buck kill were Louisiana, 15 percent; Oklahoma, 20 percent; and Kansas, 21 percent.”<<<Read More>>>

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Pennsylvania Deer Harvest Information

“The Pennsylvania Game Commission today reported that, in the state’s 2014-15 seasons, hunters harvested an estimated 303,973 deer – a decrease of about 14 percent compared to the 2013-14 harvest of 352,920.

Hunters took 119,260 antlered deer in the 2014-15 seasons – a decrease of about 11 percent compared to the previous license year, when an estimated 134,280 bucks were taken. Also, hunters harvested an estimated 184,713 antlerless deer in 2014-15, which represents an about 16 percent decrease compared to the 218,640 antlerless deer taken in 2013-14.”<<<Read More>>>

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