September 23, 2019

Maine’s Deer Harvest Data Missing, Something Going on With Moose?

The last of the Maine deer hunting for 2013 ended on December 13, 2013. It is now March 11, 2014 and not one breath of information coming out of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) about harvest data. And as is always the case, the longer we wait the more reason we have to believe there must be something to hide. I mean seriously, how long can it take? Or am I the only one who cares enough about factual information to make my own assessments as to what is and what is not going on with the state’s deer and deer management (or lack thereof)? After all, there was all this pre-season hype about a restored and surging deer herd with projected increases in deer harvest expected.

Maine counts about 20,000 deer of late, most all of that information being collected from tagging stations spread out across the state. I hate to make this comparison but New Jersey counted just shy of 50,000 tagged deer in their harvest and the last of their deer hunting, winter bow, didn’t end until January 31, 2014.

Not to pick just on the deer harvest, where’s Maine’s bear harvest data? Gee, the newspapers are always full of bear stories, of the great work the bear biologists are doing studying bears etc. but no bear harvest data.

So what’s new with whitetail deer management in Maine? Nothing, I guess, unless it’s a really well kept secret. Hoping for some more serious global warming I guess. And where’s that increased communication we were promised in Maine’s Plan for Deer?

There is some good news about deer management coming from Downeast Maine. Sorry, but this management has nothing to do with MDIFW. Downeast, they kill coyotes, they kill bears, they kill bobcats, that kill deer. Oh, don’t worry. They aren’t going to kill all the coyotes, bears and bobcats. They just MANAGE them. Instead they are going to prevent the extirpation of whitetail deer.

Unofficial reports I have just received show deer harvest numbers are great. Coyote tracks and other signs are at minimum levels compared with previous years and with a spring bear hunt on Indian Reservation lands, over 50 bears were taken last year.

And by the way, with a continued abundance of snowshoe hare, the Canada lynx, supposedly in danger of extirpation, is thriving Downeast.

But there is something going on with moose Downeast. One observer says he doesn’t believe it to be winter ticks, as the usual signs of tick infestation aren’t showing up.

I also have an unconfirmed report that 4 of the 40 moose officials collared, as part of their moose study, have already died. I believe those 4 dead moose were yearlings. No cause given yet but it is being reported that when those 4 moose were collared, officials knew they were sick then. But what were they sick with?

Maine has already determined how many moose permits they will issue for the 2014 hunt by lottery. Was this decision made knowing that there may be disease running its course? Should MDIFW reconsider moose permit allotments. If only there was better communication. I think sportsmen and others would be more concerned if they actually knew what was going on. Or maybe that’s the plan.

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Harvested Deer Per Square Mile Data

Quality Deer Management annually collects deer data from state wildlife agencies and makes it available to anyone of interest. The 2013 Whitetail Report can be found on their website at this link.

There certainly are a lot of data that I think is safe to say reinforces the old adage that statistic prove that statistics can prove anything.

Due to a tip from a reader I began looking through the report with a bit of a focus on deer harvest by state per square mile. As is pointed out in the report, the harvest per square mile is not necessarily indicative of deer population per square mile. However, it is important to note that deer densities and hunting pressure influence the percentage of harvested deer per square mile.

Without having that information in hand, it is difficult to make too many conclusions from some of the data available but in doing a state by state or region by region comparison, I suppose one can see how your state is doing as compared to others in your region.

For example, in the Northeast Region we can look at both the number of antlered bucks harvest per square mile and the number of does. In the Northeast Region, 13 states, Maine has the lowest antlered buck harvest per square mile at 0.4. Maryland topped the list at 3.4 harvested antlered bucks per square mile.

Bearing in mind also in these calculations and any conclusions you might want to draw, that states vary in how tags might be allotted for both antlered bucks and does or antlerless deer. For instance, Maine has a 3 1/2 inch requirement for harvesting an antlered buck. In addition, to harvest a doe, an “Any-Deer” permit is issued via a lottery. With that permit a hunter can harvest any sex and age of deer, providing they are hunting a Wildlife Management District that’s not closed to hunting “Any Deer.”

When we examine doe harvest, Maine, once again, scrapes the bottom of the barrel at 0.2 does harvested per square mile. Maryland stands at 6.3.

I’m not sure what all this information tells us but there is one thing for sure. If your state has a numerous and healthy deer herd and you are not overrun with hunters, you should be in for a good time. On the flip side, whoa to the hunter that beats the brush looking for deer that don’t exist. It matters not how many hunters are in the field. If there’s no deer and continues to be no deer, fewer hunters will spend time hunting.

Most hunters have a pretty good understanding of their state’s deer herd and success rates.

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