April 24, 2014

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.

Good Deer Hunting in the City

I read with interest an article in the Portland (Maine) Press Herald about how the most southern county in Maine, York County, has been quite consistent over the years with its deer harvest – even despite the death and destruction after the two famed, back-to-back “severe” winters of 2008 and 2009.

In this article and others, is often repeated the reasons why there are more deer in Southern and Central Maine than in other places. For one, the climate is consistently a bit milder and some people claim that there is less hunting going on in some of these regions because more land is posted to hunting and trespass.

Always missing in these articles is any mention of why, other than climate and land postings, deer are more prevalent here than there. When we examine the causes of deer mortality, we learn that climate/weather/severe winters, habitat (feed and cover), human-caused mortality (hunting and auto accidents, etc.), disease, and predation are the main causes. So, logically speaking one should be able to conclude that York County must have less of some or all of these causes of deer death, if it is maintaining a constant deer population resulting in a consistent harvest.

I touched briefly on climate. Let’s look a bit at human population. One might assume that the higher and more dense the human population, the higher rate of auto collision deaths of deer. York County is the second most populated county in Maine and third highest in people per square mile. But it doesn’t appear auto collisions have much factor in deer mortality, in relationship to harvest data.

Last year’s hunt saw a harvest of 175 deer; this from a county with nearly 200,000 people or, 1,271 square miles of area = 155 people per square mile. We don’t know the deer population over the past 5 or so years but claims are the harvest has remained consistent or risen. Can we conclude deer population has risen? No, because we have to know number of licensed hunters over the years and participation rates. Probably they are at least somewhat consistent over the years.

Let’s combine habitat and predation together. Deer require the basics of food supply and protective cover – from predation and harsh winter weather, as well as normal activity. In York County, the winters are less severe and therefore the deer don’t require dense, high-canopied deer wintering areas. Deer also are not stupid and they will seek out the best places to live as it may pertain to food supply, protection from the elements and protection from predation.

It is no secret that wild animals, like deer, moose, elk, have migrated into the backyards of people living in higher human populated areas for a few reasons: better and more available food, protection from elements and to escape the constant threat of predation in all seasons, not just winter.

This is not a new phenomenon, although there might be more of it going on due to the over protection of large predators, loss of habitat, etc.

I’ve even provided photographs on this website of adult female moose, with their new-born calves taking up refuge in downtown areas, away from large predators, like wolves, coyotes, bears and mountain lions. The same can be said for elk.

If one were to read the book, “Early Maine Wildlife” by William B. Krohn and Christopher L. Hoving, you would soon discover that in journals and diaries, as well as newspapers, dating back as early as the 1600s, deer migrated from the northern climes of the state of Maine, many of them taking up residence on the many islands off the coast of Maine. This migration, even back then, was attributed to the harassment of wolves and other large predators, in combination with harsh winters and an eroding of habitat.

So, when people read articles like the one linked to above, it would be helpful to all concerned if a bit more explanation went into the complexities of understanding deer populations and causes of mortality, which greatly affects the habits of deer.

Maine’s Deer Harvest for 2012 Tops 21,000

According to a report filed on the website of WCSH-TV in Portland, Maine, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) released preliminary estimates of the 2012 deer hunting season harvest. That estimate tops 21,000. The report states this as an 11% increase over last year’s dismal performance.

While it may be an 11% increase, an indication that there are probably a few more deer around, it still remains approximately 45% below the last ten-year high in 2002 of over 38,000.

From the report:

Biologist Lee Kantar said the increase is due in large part to last winter’s mild weather, resulting in a high survival of fawns that produced a bumper yearling crop.

This statement probably indicates that there were a lot of yearling deer taken during the hunt.

Maine has miles to go before it sleeps as far as rebuilding a destroyed deer herd, as most all of Northern Maine, Downeast and the Western Mountains remain mostly devoid of deer. Efforts at predator control are underway and with serious continued efforts at this, in about 3 years time, Maine citizens should begin seeing results from that effort and investment.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the MDIFW press release with the preliminary numbers made available. This is something Maine sportsmen have been asking for for years; simply an unofficial tally of the deer kill.

Upon finding the information, I immediately emailed Chandler Woodcock, MDIFW Commissioner, Lee Kantar, MDIFW deer biologist and Governor Paul LePage to thank them for their efforts to get this done.

Maine IFW Needs to Learn to Count Deer Harvest Like Kentucky

Why is it, I’ve asked countless times, that Maine takes at least 4 months from the end of deer hunting season to release deer harvest numbers? We hear some bullpucky about the collection of data, blah, blah, blah and by the time harvest numbers are out, most hunters are gearing up for fishing season and have mostly forgotten about the deer hunt.

But in Kentucky, according to Outdoor Wire, counting of deer harvest numbers are only a few hours behind the hunt.

The total harvest for the month of November won’t be known until the end of the month on Friday, Nov. 30. However, as of Wednesday, Nov. 28, a new record has already been reached. The 96,986 deer reported taken tops the previous record (89,498 deer taken in 2004) by 8.3 percent.

And this same information has been made available for September and October only hours after each days hunt.

Does Maine have something to hide or are they just embarrassed to death that there are so few deer? Kentucky will count close to 125,000 harvested deer this year and the day after all the seasons have concluded, they will have a count.

Maine will count perhaps 20,000-25,000 and take 4 or 5 months to do it. Why?

Months in the Making, Maine’s Deer Harvest Numbers Finally Made Available

While Maine hunters still can’t comprehend why it takes over 3 months to tell them how many deer got killed during the past deer hunting season, most have forgotten, perhaps conveniently, that there was a deer season.

However, today the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has made available deer harvest information.

Total 2011 deer harvest amounted to 18,170. This compares to 20,063 from 2010. For those wanting to know and something MDIFW didn’t seem too eager to publish in their report, that’s a decrease in deer harvest of about 9.4% from the previous year. That in and of itself might not sound all that bad but when you realize that this year’s harvest was half what it was in 2000, it further drives home the point that Maine deer hunting stinks. It’s been in a downward spiral for many years and the past three years are not indicative that anything is going to change in the foreseeable future.

The numbers are not unexpected but pathetic regardless. In MDIFW’s written report, it seems the department is quick to point out that any reductions in deer harvest from last year to this year are all the result of the reduction of “Any-Deer Permits” issued. Of course the harvest report isn’t the place to discuss this issue but the question still begs to be answered; what has MDIFW been doing for the past decade that it got to a point it had to make such drastic cuts in the allotment of Any-Deer Permits?

Are we now supposed to accept that with 2 of the past 3 winters being relatively, to exceptionally, mild and a drastic reduction in Any-Deer Permits, Maine hunters will soon be back to the glory days of deer hunting? Let’s hope so but true deer rebuilding will not happen until the state gets a handle on their over grown and over protected predator populations. Sorry, but in my opinion no hope and change global warming and/or reduction of Any-Deer Permits in Southern Maine, is going to do squat for Northern Maine.

Tom Remington

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