October 21, 2019

Maine’s Deer Harvest Numbers

There are 5 more days, including today, to hunt whitetail deer in Maine. With the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (they must all be on vacation) new digital, instant tagging technology, we have been told that Maine’s deer harvest so far is…ah…er…well. Maybe next year.

God, technology is a beautiful thing!


Maine Big Bucks and Estimated 2017 Deer Harvest

As has been the case over the past several years, we wait until nobody cares anymore about the last hunting season’s deer harvest data. In the meantime, my team waits for the Big Bucks Report that is put out by the Maine Sportsman magazine, then goes to work counting and plotting graphs. From the number of registered “big bucks,” an estimate is generated as to what the final count will be for that year’s deer harvest. While not accurate, the estimations haven’t been very far off, proof of our excellent work.

Below are two charts. The first, which probably looks familiar to those regular readers here, is the ongoing chart that shows the deer harvest year, the total harvest and an array of numbers, percentages, and departures from a base year. As is always done when I publish this chart, the last, or in this case 2017 “Deer Kill” is an estimation based on previous years’ calculations. When the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) decides to release the deer harvest data (typically we will not see this until early summer), I will update this chart with the official “Deer Kill” and republish that for readers.

The second chart/graph shows the number of registered Big Bucks with the Maine Sportsman magazine since the year 2000. To be honest, I’m not sure what, if any, real conclusions can be made from this information because there are certain variables that change that may affect the results. For example, what determines how many people decide to register their “Big Bucks” with the Maine Sportsman? I doubt those numbers vary a lot from year to year, but over several years as the demographics of the hunting community changes from year to year, so too it may change the results of the number of big bucks registered.

I was a bit dismayed after having read an editorial in the Maine Sportsman where the editors presented a bright and optimistic overview of Maine’s deer population, the percentage of big bucks, and the future outlook for deer hunting and deer management. The magazine provided their own creative graph of big bucks, but only for the past six years – certainly not long enough where any honest estimations, conclusions, or trends could be generated.

As you will see, our charts go back to the year 2000. Eighteen years of Maine Sportsman Magazine’s registered Big Bucks are plotted. When comparing eighteen years against 6 years, a deer hunter might not be so thrilled about the trend that appears before them.

Reminding readers that this information and chart is not necessarily a scientific one, I have generally concluded that the number of big bucks basically follows the trend in the overall deer population. If this is accurate, this could be taken as a compliment to the MDIFW having been able to accomplish a healthy maintenance of buck to doe ratios and age structure. This is a good thing.

However, to state that “more hunters took trophy deer each successive year since 2014” may be accurate but perhaps a bit misleading.

An examination of the eighteen-year graph shows that the Maine deer population shrank and remains that way. The deer harvest has plummeted from a high of 38,153 in 2002, to a low of 18,045 in 2009. Since 2009, the deer harvest has averaged around 21,000 – nothing to get too excited about.

Reports have been thrown around about mild winters and more deer, but to those who get around, it is clear that such conditions only exist in certain areas.

While only looking at the last two years, the number of reported Big Bucks is nearly identical, hinting that the deer population throughout the entire state has remained static.

I do not look for any changes in deer management. All that might change as far as deer herd and harvest will be the result of variables in which we have no control over. As long as there remains too many moose, too many black bears, too many coyote/wolf hybrids, too many bobcats, and too many Canada lynx, the struggle to grow a deer herd will persist. Maine hunters should get used to how things are now, while expecting up and down swings of hunting success.


2016 Deer Harvest Data is Out…Finally

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has finally released the harvest data for the 2016 deer hunting season. You can find a map on the MDIFW website. Where’s the written summary? Do we wait another 6 months for that or has work become so overwhelming that biolo”jests” just don’t have the time or resources?

With all the hoopla about how terrific the deer herd has become, due to those “mild” winters – caused by global warming of course – the total deer harvest for 2016 rose to a meager 23,512 up slightly from the previous 2 seasons and down from 2013’s harvest.

The harvest trend seems to be telling us a bit more truth as to what is trending with Maine’s deer herd. It just isn’t as robust as salesmen at MDIFW want to convince the public it is. And yet, MDIFW has announced they intend to increase the number of “Any-Deer Permits” up to over 66,000, an increase of 20,295 from last season and 37,280 from the 2015 season. Seriously? Seriously!

These numbers just don’t seem to make a lot of sense even when you try to make sense out of allotment of permits according by Wildlife Management Districts (WMDs). Permits are intended to be allotted in WMDs where deer herd numbers are bleak.

One has to wonder if the MDIFW is so desperate to make payroll and pay retirement funds, that they are going to do it at the expense of furthering the demise of the deer herd. If not, then it can only be determined that MDIFW intends to deliberately reduce the deer herd to where annual deer harvest for hunters will run in the mid to high teens of thousands. I would think even the coyote and bear lovers would be upset that MDIFW is planning to take away one of their favorite diets.

Below is a chart that shows deer harvests from 1999, along with comparatives which helps to give us some information on trends. From what I see, the trend is toward a lousier and lousier deer herd.

Your tax dollars at work…or play.



QDMA Whitetail Deer Report for 2016

Below is the link to the 2016 Quality Deer Management Association Report on whitetail deer. Bear in mind a couple of things. One, I am not a very big fan of QDMA for various reasons. One reason is because I believe they put too much focus on “trophy” hunting and manipulating the resource towards that end. Another issue to consider, should you choose to review this report, is that it is a great example of the saying, “Statistic prove that statistics can prove anything.” While QDMA is presenting information about declines and increases in yearling buck harvest and/or buck harvest in general, as well as antlerless deer, it offers no explanations of why. It’s one thing to report declines or increases in yearling buck harvest, for example, even to go to the point of suggesting trends, but to make specific claims requires much greater knowledge and information about all aspects that effect deer management and hunting harvests.

One might suspect that with QDMA’s insistent pushing for antler point restrictions (for trophy hunting purposes), it would seem logical that the buck harvest might decrease when such restrictions are put in place. The same kind of unknown comparison can be applied to reports in changes of antlerless deer. In states, like Maine, that use “Any-Deer Permits” to regulate the populations of deer, significant changes in the allotment of such permits, as has been the case in recent years, obviously affects the harvest data.

That isn’t to say the report is worthless. It contains interesting data and if taken in its context and applied subjectively and honestly, within the smallest denominator of available data in each state, one might find some interesting comparatives, assuming most things remain consistent…and they don’t.

QDMA’s Whitetail Report 2016


One, Two, Three, Four…What Comes Next?



Massachusetts Releases Deer Harvest Data – Maine Still Searching for Tag Reports

But Old Hunter say:


Maine Counts 111 Dead Deer a Day

Okay, here’s some more whine! If Maine deer hunters shoot 20,000 deer a season, and it takes the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) 6 months (180 days) to count the registered deer and then tell the public, then MDIFW counts 111.111 deer a day.

In comparison, Wisconsin’s gun deer season just ended, with a harvest reported of 79,429 deer and it was reported to the press in three days. Officials there counted 26,476 deer a day. Maine should be able to count the entire harvest in one day!

Maine: Life in the Slow Lane!


How Many Biologists Does It Take to Count to 20,000?

Evidently a whole bunch of them and taking a long, long time. I suppose the biolo”jests” are very busy pawing through outcome-based survey results and getting advice from members of the Humane Society of the United States, while hiding deer harvest information, so they can figure out how to make Maine deer hunters think they are doing a wonderful job (as THEIR bought-and-paid-for survey – wink, wink, – shows) and that there are so many deer around the biolog”jests” are going to issue more doe permits. If this were true, then why does the deer harvest information take months and months to be published on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MDIFW) website?

But here’s some interesting information that some fool can use to prop up the work of the MDIFW. Data shows the date in which deer harvest information is posted on the MDIFW website following a deer hunting season, of which the last of the deer harvest season is over by about mid-December.


On average it takes 5 months to count up to 20,000 – this during an era of instant information. The latest reporting date appears to be on July 23, 2009. Cripes sake. Back when newspapers were printed one page at a time, by hand, the Pony Express got tagging information to the biolo”jests” sooner than that. That’s progress.

While not official, I did get my hands on a map and deer harvest total for 2015. None of this information is posted and available on MDIFW’s website. I don’t know if I got this and I wasn’t supposed to, but I posted the information anyway.


But it matters not. I am the only one who is complaining about this. After all, according to some, that’s all I do. I’m too stupid to see deer that don’t exists and I want accountability for the dollars I spend. I know that’s wrong. I guess I have nothing else to do in retirement.

All Maine deer hunters are just always so busy chasing so many deer around the state (because the biolog”jests” are doing such a remarkable job – wink, wink) they simply don’t have time to be bothered by anything that would show them the hundreds of thousands of deer ready to be harvested…OR NOT!

By the time sportsmen can get a chance to look at any deer harvest data, they have taken up fishing for those native and wild, or is it Native and Wild brook trout, or maybe it’s Native and wild…no, no. I get so confused. Like deer hunting, the trout fishing is so good in Maine (because the survey says it is – get ready – wink, wink) efforts are now being taken to categorize brook trout as either Native or Wild. But when you go catch (while we are still allowed to) them, it becomes very confusing as to whether they are native or wild. They might be Wild brook trout (haven’t been stocked over for 25 years…or something) and/or Native (never been stocked over….or something). But if you buy a fishing license you can go catch (while you are still allowed) some of those wild and native brook trout that might or might not be Wild and/or Native. You got all of this didn’t you?

It’s a good thing deer are not classified as Native or Wild. They are, however, damned RARE!


Maine Deer Harvest Dismal – Why Are Sportsmen Happy With Management

Over the weekend I received a Maine map that showed the deer harvest for the 2015 Maine deer hunting season. As I write this morning, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has not posted the harvest data on their website for public viewing.

The deer harvest was a dismal 20,348. The chart below will give you comparisons.


Chart contains the latest deer kill number for 2015 as published by Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.  The 200 pound bucks numbers were compiled from data published by The Maine Sportsman Magazine.

Also today, I posted information from the MDIFW announcing dates, times and places where meetings will be held in which citizens can attend and voice their thoughts and opinions about Maine’s wildlife. Perhaps with a reminder to sportsmen that the deer herd simply is not getting any better, contrary to what we have been told, it will stimulate some effort to attend these meetings. It appears the hoped-for global warming isn’t getting the job done.

Maybe it was the back-to-back “severe” winters in 2007/2008 that cut the deer herd down substantially…or maybe not. If it was, why hasn’t the herd recovered? Surely winters haven’t been too severe. Maybe the deer managers haven’t figured out yet that global warming alone can’t recover and sustain a healthy deer herd. Maybe there are other factors. Maybe northern Maine has become a Predator Pit. Maybe MDIFW is too busy counting bats, butterflies and piping plovers.

What has puzzled me since studying the recent Big Game Survey, is that hunters, generally speaking, are very much satisfied with how MDIFW manages the deer herd. The survey tells us that deer hunters primarily hunt for meat and that the highest percentage of hunters were “very satisfied” with their deer hunting experiences in the past 5 years. That percentage of “very satisfied” deer hunters is highest in the southern regions of the state at 70% (where the deer population is highest). Satisfaction is lowest in the north with 49% of hunters still claiming satisfaction with their experience.

When I see results like this is when I question the viability of the survey. I wrote recently to explain about being aware of surveys and the Delphi Technique used to derive sought-after results. Is this what’s going on?

Further examination of the survey also reveals that 70% of those hunters not happy with their deer hunting experiences, were such due to lack of deer.

So, you figure it out. Most deer hunters want meat. Most deer hunters are “very satisfied” with their hunting experiences, and those that aren’t say it’s because there are too few deer. If this is true, expect nothing in deer management to change, especially if a majority of deer hunters aren’t interested in greater opportunity to harvest a deer.

Consider that the survey queries hunters about their experiences over the past 5 years. When we examine the chart above, we see that over the past five years, deer harvest has been terrible compared to previous years. Is this a case of sportsmen becoming accustomed to spending time in the woods merely for the fun of it and they have learned to be excited at the mere event of seeing a deer, or not seeing a deer? Perhaps.

During this past deer season, all I heard from sportsmen was that there were tons of deer and that they were big. The harvest data doesn’t reveal that. Is this conditioning? Comparing those harvests between 2009 and 2012, this year’s harvest is no better. We are becoming accustomed to deer harvests below 20,000, where once they approached 40,000. Isn’t it time for some better management? Waiting on a warming climate to grow more deer isn’t going to work evidently. Are we taking too many deer? Are we taking too many does? Doe deer haven’t been taken in northern Maine for several years, and what has that done to the deer herd?

And why are sportsmen satisfied with their hunting experience? Evidently their most important reason to hunt deer – for the meat – is a pipe dream. What have deer hunters become?

Changes in how deer are managed are needed. Sportsmen need to open their eyes to reality and start complaining. We pay a lot of money for game management and a chance to harvest deer. We should begin acting like it.

Demand changes!




Hunters Sometimes Might Be Stupid and Lazy

Very early on in my writing career, I was told by veteran writers never to talk badly about your reading audience. That is probably true. However, if my reading audience doesn’t change their ways at certain things, I won’t have an audience left. So, here goes!

If you believe that collecting data on harvested deer actually helps the wildlife biologists better manage the deer herd, then why wouldn’t you obey the law and tag your deer and then report it to the agency?

Louisiana evidently has a problem getting their licensed deer hunters to do just that. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries estimate that close to 140,000 deer are harvested during the deer hunting season. Of that number, only 65,081 deer were registered with the agency. Hunters failed to obey the law.

I’m guessing Louisiana doesn’t have a shortage of deer problem which may contribute to the lack of hunters following the regulations. Even with the threat of fines and jail time, officials claim it is not a deterrent. Instead they are going to enter everyone who registers their deer into a raffle to win prizes, including a “choice of a Remington 700 or Thompson Center breech-loading rifle in the winner’s choice of caliber, with a scope and case to go with it.” Seriously, is the best use of resources?

It appears that on the LDWF website, enough information that is required to purchase a license should be enough to prohibit the purchase of a license the following year if a hunter fails to report his deer. It seems that a few adjustments in the system could remedy the problem relatively easily. It may be more expensive that a grand prize but it might be a long-time cure.

I’m not one for government regulation of any kind. However, I think it is important to provide data to the wildlife biologists in order that they can properly manage game. Evidently Louisiana hunters do not.