August 14, 2018

Applications for 2018 any-deer (antlerless) permit lottery are now available online from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Press Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

 To apply online, visit www.mefishwildlife.com. Online applications are due by 11:59 P.M. on August 15, 2018.

It is free to apply for the any-deer permit lottery. The drawing will be held on September 7, 2018 and results will be posted on the Department’s website.

For this coming deer season, a total 84,745 any-deer permits are proposed for 22 of the state’s 29 wildlife management districts across the state, an increase of 28%. Last year, there were 66,050 permits available to hunters.  Hunters who do not receive an Any Deer permit are only allowed to shoot an antlered deer (with some exceptions during archery season and on youth day).

This year, make sure you also apply for a bonus permit, as there are likely to be wildlife management districts where there are more any deer permits available than there are hunters who apply for them. In these districts, hunters can get a bonus antlerless permit for no charge if they apply and are selected. Last year, bonus permits were awarded in WMDS 20, 21, 22, 24, and 29 which are located in southern, central and coastal Maine.

Hunter success rates are much higher for those with an any deer permit. Generally, success rates for deer hunters in Maine hover around 15% but those with an any deer permit harvested a deer over 20% of the time.

Permit numbers are increasing in nine southern and central wildlife management districts, are decreasing in 11 WMDs and staying the same in nine WMDS. You can find the complete numbers at https://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting-trapping/any-deer-permit.html#permitallocations. The permit numbers reflect that the 2017-18 winter was more moderate in central and southern Maine, while up north the winter was a little more severe than years past.

The department uses the any-deer permit system to manage the white-tailed deer population in the state. The ability to enact change in the state’s deer populations derives from the ability to increase, or decrease, the number of breeding female deer on the landscape. By controlling the harvest of female deer in the 29 regional wildlife management districts throughout the state, biologists can manage population trends.

Deer hunters in Maine harvested 27,233 deer in 2017, the highest total in the last ten years and an increase of 15% from 2016. Maine’s deer hunt is broken down into several seasons for firearm hunters, muzzleloaders and bow hunters. Most deer are harvested during the general firearms season (23,288), which started on October 28th and continued until November 25. Bowhunters took 2,099 deer, and hunters took 970 deer during the muzzleloading season. Maine’s junior hunters were also very successful on youth day, with 876 youth hunters taking a deer this year.

Deer hunting in Maine provides many Maine families with wild game meat that is high in nutrition, sustainable, free range, and organic. On average, a 150-pound field dressed deer will provide close to 70 pounds of meat.

Deer hunting season (firearms) begins with Youth Deer Hunting Day on Saturday, October 20, 2018. Youth may take a buck statewide or an antlerless deer only in the wildlife management districts where any-deer permits will be issued this fall.

This year, Maine Residents Only Day is on Saturday, October 27, 2017 and regular firearms season for deer runs October 29 through November 24, 2017. Once again this year, a nonresident who owns 25 or more acres of land in Maine and leaves land open to hunting, holds a valid hunting license, and is not otherwise prohibited by law, may hunt deer on the Resident only day.

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Maine IFW Posts Ancient 2017 Deer Harvest Report…Sort of

Yesterday I noticed that finally, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) posted the 2017 deer harvest report.

A couple things to note: First, the report is dated June 13, 2018. If that was the actual date this report was completed, why did it take at least 2 more weeks to make it public? Or did they post-date it so they wouldn’t be guilty of setting a new tardiness record?

Second, when examining the map MDIFW uses to show the number of deer tagged within each town when you enlarge the map hoping to be able to read the town listed in each town’s boundary, it is illegible. Older reports don’t seem to have that problem. This becomes worthless for those trying to make comparisons from one year to the next without being able to distinguish the towns.

Third, beginning in 2012 MDIFW published what they call an “Age Report.” This report simply lists the estimated age of each deer tagged for that season. I wish it contained more information. The Age Report for 2017 has not been made public yet.

Incidentally, the total deer harvest for 2017 stands at 27,233.

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Old Hunter: Maine IFW Asleep at the Wheel

Old Hunter says:

Press Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

MDIFW News — Deer Kill Largest In Last Ten Years

For Immediate Release: June 12, 2018

AUGUSTA, Maine – Deer hunters in Maine harvested 27,233 deer in 2017, the highest total in the last ten years and an increase of 15% from 2016.

“An increasing deer herd in southern and central Maine, and favorable hunting conditions contributed to the best deer hunting season in ten years,” said Nathan Bieber, MDIFW Deer Biologist.

Maine’s deer hunt is broken down into several seasons for firearm hunters, muzzleloaders and bow hunters. This year the season framework stretched from September 9 to December 9. Most deer are harvested during the general firearms season (23,288), which started on October 28th and continued until November 25. Bowhunters took 2,099 deer, and hunters took 970 deer during the muzzleloading season. Maine’s junior hunters were also very successful on youth day, with 876 youth hunters taking a deer this year.

“Deer hunting is large part of Maine’s cultural heritage. Each year, over 200,000 hunters head into the woods of Maine,” said Bieber. “Hunting also provides many in Maine with a sustainable source of high quality, organic, free-range protein.”

The deer hunting season allows the department to manage the deer herd and provide wildlife watching and hunting opportunity in much of the state while decreasing the deer population in other areas in order to reduce deer/car collisions and property damage, and prevalence of lyme disease.

Adult bucks by far comprised the vast majority of the harvest, with hunters taking 18,255 antlered bucks. With 66,050 anterless permits issued, hunters harvested 8,978 antlerless deer.

According to Maine’s deer hunter surveys, on average deer hunters spent 37 hours hunting deer during the season, averaging 4.3 hours afield each trip.

For this coming deer season, a total 84,745 any-deer permits are proposed for 22 of the state’s 29 wildlife management districts across the state, an increase of 28% Last year, there were 66,050 permits available to hunters. Hunters who do not receive an Any Deer permit are only allowed to shoot an antlered deer (with some exceptions during archery season and on youth day). The proposed permit numbers await approval by the IFW advisory council. There will be a public hearing on the proposed permit numbers on Tuesday, June 26 at 6:00 p.m. at room 209A in the Augusta Armory.

“Last year’s winter was more moderate in central and southern Maine, while up north, winter was a little more severe on average than years past. The change in the number of any deer permits reflect that,” said Bieber.

Permit numbers are increasing in nine southern and central wildlife management districts, are decreasing in 11 WMDs and staying the same in nine WMDS. You can find the complete numbers at https://www.maine.gov/ifw/news-events/rulemaking-proposals.html.

The department uses the any-deer permit system to manage the white-tailed deer population in the state. The ability to adjust the state’s deer populations derives from the ability to increase, or decrease, the number of breeding does on the landscape. White-tailed deer are at the northern edge of their range in Maine, and winter severity is a limiting factor concerning population growth. By controlling the harvest of female deer in the 29 regional wildlife management districts throughout the state, biologists can manage population trends.

Last year, MDIFW wildlife biologists examined over 20% of the state’s deer harvest, collecting biological data to monitor deer health throughout the state. In addition to examining registered deer and gathering biological data, lymph nodes were collected in ongoing efforts to monitor for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Maine.

CWD sampling efforts were targeted around towns with active captive cervid facilities, winter feeding operations, and/or high cervid densities. We collected samples from 476 deer, which were sent to the Colorado State University- Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory for testing. All samples tested negative for CWD prion.

The deer harvest for the past ten years is as follows: 2007 — 28,885; 2008 — 21,062; 2009 –18,092; 2010 — 20,063; 2011 — 18,839; 2012 — 21,365; 2013 — 24,217; 2014 — 22,490; 2015 — 20,325; 2016 — 23,512; 2017 — 27,233.

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Proposed Allotment of Maine “Any-Deer Permits” per WMD

George Smith, through the Bangor Daily News, provides readers with a list of the number of “Any-Deer Permits” proposed to be distributed to the Wildlife Management Districts for the upcoming 2018 deer hunting season.

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Maine Deer Harvest Report: The Dog Ate My Homework

As of this writing, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has not published the deer harvest results for the 2017 season. They are approaching a record:

According to V. Paul Reynolds, who used to work for this outfit, says MDIFW still blames the tagging stations for not filing their information with Augusta. Really? “During my three year-tenure with IF&W, it never changed. Blame was placed on the deer tagging stations.

Guess what? It’s no better today. In fact, it is worse. Much worse. As of the first of June, nobody in officialdom, including the state deer biologist Nathan Bieber, can tell you how many deer were taken in last fall’s hunt. Don Dudley, chairman of the IF&W advisory council, said that it is frustrating for policymakers who keep asking for the deer harvest summary and are told that the foot draggers in the tagging stations are the culprits.”

So, there are “foot-draggers” in the tagging stations that refuse to send their tagging data to MDIFW in a timely manner. Who is captain of this piece of a crap sinking ship? Why does a governmental agency, that thinks nothing of running roughshod over any private citizen who stands in the way, not have the balls to tell tagging stations “NO MORE! WE ARE TAKING AWAY YOUR TAGGING PRIVILEGES?”

Oh, what is it? MDIFW is so desperate for tagging stations they are at the mercy of owners of businesses that tag game that they have no say? Give me a break!

I recall one time when, as commissioner of the local Little League program, during a championship playoff game, two women stood behind the backstop and verbally accosted the home plate umpire to a point the umpire called a time-out and asked to speak to me. We asked them to leave the grounds, but they refused. What was was to do? What could we do? It had gotten out of hand and the players and the rest of the spectators were getting angry.

I gathered the coaches and umpires together and we decided that, short of calling the local sheriff to assist with evicting them, I turned on the microphone to the public address system and announced that due to difficulties with two parents the baseball game was suspended until such time as the two women left the property.

What worked was that the two felt isolated and embarrassed because those they thought were on their side, were not. The crowd began to become vocal themselves, insisting the two women leave the park in order that the children could finish their game and enjoy it.

Maybe it is time for MDIFW to use a similar tactic with these irresponsible clowns – if it is really them that are the problem. I have my doubts.

You know what I think it is? I think that MDIFW finds placing the blame for not doing their jobs on tagging stations because it is convenient to not have the data and not have to process it until they get damned good and ready – you know, like when everyone has already forgotten about how lousy the hunting was and have already forgotten they were thinking about never buying another license.

I contend there is only a handful of us who want the specific data – and much more than what is stingily provided. It is our way of sifting through information as a means of checks and balances of this government agency. The majority of those who have a little bit of concern would like for the MDIFW to issue a press statement within hours or a day or two after the close of the hunting seasons with an “ESTIMATE” of numbers of game animals harvested. Is that difficult? If a tagging station is not giving up their data, how about a quick phone call and ask them how many deer they have tagged so far? Crissakes Anyway!!!

Back before there were computers to do all the work, the fish and game department was sending out press releases each week during the season. Today, we are told MDIFW doesn’t want to release any information that isn’t 100% accurate and so conveniently blame tagging stations.

And, Reynolds wants to know how MDIFW can, with a straight face, formulate how many permits and Any-Deer Permits to issue if they claim to not have all the returned data from tagging stations.

Telling the teacher that the dog ate my homework has never worked. I guess what has changed in this modern era of governmental totalitarianism is that there just aren’t enough taxpayers who care enough anymore to hold MDIFW’s feet to the fire and MAKE them do a much better job.

And that’s why MDIFW doesn’t feel any sense of responsibility to do what should be expected of them.

I would be embarrassed, but then again, I’m a weird, son-of-a-bitch who expects a minimum of production out of those who work for me.

 

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If You Have No Intention to Count Live Deer, Why Bother to Count Dead Ones

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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.

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And Maine’s 2017 Deer Harvest Total Is………?

Awe shucks! Maine is the last New England state to let people know anything about the deer harvest for 2017.

Maybe that new guy they hired to be the new head deer biologist doesn’t know how to count either. Question: How many piping plovers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

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Difficult to Share Buck Harvest Data If It’s Not Available

I was reading an article this morning that included tips on booking a guided deer hunt in Maine. I would suppose that the same tips might be applied to any state that offers guided deer hunts. One of the tips suggests that you talk with possible future guides to find out about deer size, quantity, and quality along with success rates.

I have no real issue with guides. They have a necessary role to fill. What I have an issue with is when guides dictate to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) what they want and get it. Sometimes those demands appear to be to the detriment of other hunters and hunting opportunities. I don’t like that. You shouldn’t either. The same goes for outfitters. I don’t begrudge their businesses but I do when privilege is given to guides and outfitters cutting short opportunities for the regular “Joe” licensed hunter.

It seems a bit odd then, that given that MDIFW often goes out of their way to cater to the whims of guides and outfitters, that a registered Maine guide would tell his readers and prospective clients that to get harvest data, including deer size, quantity, and quality to go to Quality Deer Management to find out. Why not to the MDIFW website? Or, for that matter, the Maine Guides website?

As most readers know, I’m not a huge fan of Quality Deer Management, mostly because of what they promote, but that’s really beside the point of this discussion. Why do interested prospective deer hunters have to go someplace other than the MDIFW or the Maine Guides to get harvest data to look at before deciding whether they want to hire a guide and deer hunt in Maine?

It would seem that if MDIFW is really looking out for their “buds,” the guides and outfitters, they would do a better job of providing deer harvest data to them and the rest of us. If, as one Maine guide points out, it is an important precursor to booking a guided hunt, this information would be readily available. Maybe it is and is already given preferentially to guides and withheld from the rest of the public. Perhaps MDIFW doesn’t really give a damn.

Other outdoor writers have shared their disappointments that Maine doesn’t do enough to promote Maine as a destination deer hunting state. If this is true, putting harvest data on their website one year after a game hunting season, substantiates such claims. It is also an odd way of helping out the situation of selling licenses and keeping the guides and outfitters operating in the black.

Doesn’t it send a wrong message to the prospect searching for a good place to go deer hunting, that they are recommended to a lopsided, trophy hunt pushing entity for data on Maine hunting? Maybe MDIFW is happy with that. Perhaps the Office of Tourism is not? What about the Governor’s Office?

From my perspective, I would prefer to look at the hard data on Maine deer hunting than get someone else’s interpretation of that data. But that’s me. Maybe it would be a good idea to place on the MDIFW website good helpful deer, bear, moose, turkey, and grouse information that might convince someone to come and hunt Maine. Maybe they don’t have any such information. Maybe they don’t care. Or, perhaps they don’t really want the hunting.

The advice and tips given are probably good, although I’ve never employed a guiding service and more than likely never will. However, at the rate Maine is going, before hunting ends completely, and it will, hiring a guide may be the only way a person will be able to hunt. Then, none of this will really matter.

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Deer Poaching is a Problem – So Is Misleading Information

A well-respected Maine outdoor writer, whose column I read just about every week, published a column this week about poaching. Before I write any further I want to clarify that I do not condone poaching or unethical hunting – unethical meaning not following the laws governing the sport.

However, there are a couple issues I have with the writer’s information, not that these are big deals and I certainly do not want to distract from the important point of the cost of poaching and all the implications.

The article states that Maine’s deer population is estimated at 300,000, “give or take.” Is that pre or post-harvest? Maine hasn’t had a deer population near 300,000 for many, many years. Perhaps the real estimate is closer to 200,000 than 300,000 and that’s a problem.

As the author explains how “poaching” destroys deer numbers and robs legal hunters of prized opportunities to hunt, the line gets a bit muddled between the number of deer killed due to the poaching where people kill deer anytime and any place and do not legally tag that deer and the unlawful and unethical practices used and the deer are actually tagged.

You can’t count these numbers twice if you’re trying to calculate how many deer are killed by “poaching.” Does one wonder how many tagged deer were taken by strictly abiding by the rules and regulations that govern the sport and which ones were taken by “cheating?” We’ll never know. One also must wonder just how many deer are taken in a distinct criminal fashion in which the perpetrators have no regard for the law and thus never tag or report their kills?

As far as counting deer and calculating success rates, tagged deer by “cheating” cannot also be counted as poached deer.

Which brings us to the last thing I want to mention. The writer states, “Average success rates for Maine deer hunters run about 10 percent – abysmal when compared to the national level. Somehow we’ve gotten used to it. But consider that number could nearly double in the absence of poaching.”

I’m a bit puzzled by this statement but it sounds good. In an ideal situation where ALL poaching, even those sneaky things hunters do to increase their success rates, was ended, what would the harvest and success rate look like? If the success rate doubled, would the harvest double? If half the licensed hunters didn’t cheat anymore, would their success rate be cut in half while the honest hunters would double?

I don’t know. What I do know is that as the deer herd dwindles, for whatever the reasons, I am tired of spending the time trudging through the woods staring down a 10% chance of taking a deer. I’m hungry.

Because you can’t measure “poaching” to any degree, I wouldn’t suppose you could measure changes in the success rate to any degree. The author writes that a 10% deer harvest success rate is “abysmal when compared to the national level.” Why is it abysmal in comparison? Is it because there is that much more “poaching” going on or is it because a deer herd numbering around 200,000, the most of which are concentrated in high human population areas where hunting is heavily restricted, and 200,000 licensed hunters means the hunting sucks? Under these conditions, one might have to say that if the licensed and legitimate hunter didn’t “cheat” now and again, that 10% success rate might drop to 5%.

But doesn’t the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) kind of have a “fudge factor” for this sort of thing? Perhaps they don’t know precisely how many licensed hunters are doing things to press the envelope of rules and regulations but the harvest is the harvest and that is the number they use in their calculations, knowing full well there is little they can do to stop this kind of “poaching.”

Total deer mortality and fawn recruitment are the major factors in determining deer populations. When total mortality gets too high and/or recruitment too low, deer hunting is in serious trouble. To stop poaching would help but I have serious reservations that my success rate would double.

Having talked about all of this, I wonder how much any of us would be even taking the time to write about such problems if there were simply ample deer (like there used to be) to go around. I also wonder if “poaching” goes up proportionately as the deer herd perpetually shrinks?

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