Compiled By Mark Latti with IFW Wildlife Biologists
Region A – Southern Lakes Region
“We are at numbers that we usually have at the end of the season, all our registration stations are up in numbers,” says IFW wildlife biologist Scott Lindsay, who has seen a lot of deer and deer hunters as this deer season continues.
“Everyone has been very positive about the season, and we are getting a lot of favorable comments from hunters,” says Lindsay.
Lindsay added that all the positive comments are not necessarily from successful hunters. Many hunters are seeing deer but being selective.
“We had one hunter who said that in Buckfield over a period of a half dozen days, he saw several deer that he could have taken, but he was waiting for a larger buck to show,” said Lindsay.
And there have been larger bucks showing up as well. Lindsay said they are seeing several deer a week in the 240-pound range, with lots of fat in the hips and the shoulders. He said the big ones have been tagged throughout the region, mentioning towns such as Wells, Waterboro and Hartford as successful locations.
“Deer are going into the winter in very good shape,” said Lindsay.
Region B – Central and Midcoast Area
In central Maine, hunting conditions remain excellent.
“Things have been robust as far as quantity and quality,” said IFW wildlife biologist Keel Kemper, who said that numbers continue to be up throughout the region.
As is typical of the third week, Kemper said he saw a drop in the numbers this week. Last week was busy with excellent weather for hunting and the Veterans Day Holiday. Earlier this week, three straight windy days decreased hunter effort and slowed deer movement.
Kemper estimates that he will examine approximately 500 deer this year. While the specific timing of the rut is difficult to pin down, judging by what he is seeing and hearing from hunters, we are coming into the rut if we are not already there.
While things may have slowed down this week, Kemper expects to see a surge in hunters and the number of deer tagged during the Thanksgiving week.
Region C — Downeast
Downeast, hunters in the coastal district are having a lot of success.
“In WMD 27 along the coast, the number of deer taken is an recent high. Tagging stations are already ahead of last year’s totals with a big week still to go,” said IFW wildlife biologist Tom Schaeffer.
While success in the coastal WMD has been strong, Schaeffer notes that as you head into the Downeast interior, success rates start to drop, and the deer kill in WMDs 28 and 19 is more on par with recent years. Overall, however, numbers are either at the average or above the average of the last five years. There are other positive signs as well.
“The yearling take is quite noticeable,” said Schaeffer, “and we are seeing good numbers of 2 and a half year old deer as well.” Schaeffer said that means there is decent winter survival of last year’s fawn crop which bodes well for the future.
“A good number made it through last winter and through the hunting season as well,” said Schaeffer.
Schaeffer has handled a number of deer this year, and has noticed a number of traditional crotch and spike horn bucks for yearlings. All are in decent shape and in condition. He also noted that tooth replacement seems advanced this year, but feels that could be due in part to the later calendar season, which is a week later than most years.
Region D – Rangeley Lakes and Western Mountains
Up in Region D, while there may not be the number of deer that are south of there, hunters are certainly bagging some large deer.
“Deer numbers have been steady, and I have seen 10-15 deer that are over 200 pounds,” said IFW wildlife biologist Bob Cordes.
One thing that Cordes did note is that he has been seeing big deer throughout the season.
“They’ve been coming in steady, from youth day right into this week,” said Cordes.
IFW wildlife biologist Chuck Hulsey has been traveling through the region, taking biological samples from deer, and he had several observations.”
“Seems like we are seeing a higher percentage of nonresident hunters than we have seen recently,” said Hulsey. He hasn’t been seeing a lot of hunters, but the hunters he has seen have been generally very positive.
“We aren’t getting a lot of complaints, and that tells me the season is going well,” said Hulsey, who noted that when it’s not going well, he tends to hear from quite a few hutners.
Region E – Moosehead Region
Good things are happening up in the Moosehead region, where all the area tagging stations are showing an increase in numbers over the past few years.
“Some tagging stations are up by as much as 20 percent,” said IFW wildlife biologist Doug Kane. “Kokadjo is up, and it has been like a desert up there the last few years.”
Kane thinks that the region hasn’t rebounded all the way back for the harsh winters of ’08 and ’09, but “people are happy because they are seeing deer.”
The big bucks are starting to show up in the harvest as well, as there was one 15-pointer that was shot in the southern part of The County, and it topped out at over 260 pounds.
Kane, who is gathering biological data from a number of harvested deer, is pleased with what he’s seen as far as age structure of the harvest as well.
“The yearling and 2-and-a-half year old numbers are really strong. The two-and-a-half year olds are really showing in the rut,” said Kane who says this bodes well for numbers in the spring.
The rut is in full swing as well. Kane remarked about an interesting observation. He was at the tagging station at Indian Hill last Friday, he handled three bucks, and all three were shot between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. All were out chasing down does in the middle of the morning.
“I have never seen anything so marked as that,” said Kane. “I am hearing a lot of stories about bucks chasing does.” Kane also cautioned hunters not to get confused if the bucks seem to stop moving. He said that when does are in peak estrus, there isn’t much movement, but just before and just after is when you get the peak movement for bucks.
Region F – Penobscot Region
“All our registration stations are way above where they have been the last few years,” remarked IFW wildlife biologist Allen Starr who said that deer totals for the season include over 80 deer registered in Hudson, over 100 in Corinth and the Katahdin General store in Millinocket tagged over 60.
One of the reasons for the many success stories is that the weather has cooperated with hunters.
“All in all it has been pretty good conditions for hunters,” said Starr, who noted that while earlier this week it had been pretty windy, the cold, clear weather boded well for hunters later this week.
Starr said the deer he has seen have all been in very good condition. He saw a nice nine pointer that topped out just under 200 pounds (198.5) that was shot in the Katahdin Iron Works area. Perhaps more interesting was a large yearling Starr checked, that was five points with nice thick antlers.
Starr also sent this picture of a happy hunter who bagged this big buck in the western part of the region, a 230 pound, ten pointer.
Region G – The County
Up in the County, a very successful deer season continues.…
“I would say that deer registrations are up by 75-100% over the last few years,” said IFW Wildlife Biologist Rich Hoppe who noted that Ben’s in Presque Isle was up over 100% from last year with still a week to go. “Hunter effort is up, and success rates are up.”
Hoppe has examined a number of the harvested deer, and has come away impressed.
“The deer are in excellent shape headed into this year’s winter. What we noted with moose, with the exceptional weight and antler growth, also seems to be reflected in the deer,” said Hoppe.
“The excellent habitat and mild winters have enabled deer to maintain optimal body condition with high fat reserves,” said Hoppe. “This will serve them well going into winter and should translate into higher survival rates.”
Hunting conditions have also been very good as well. During the week of Veterans Day, there was snow on the ground Monday through Wednesday. Hoppe said he saw lots of hunters who took advantage of the excellent conditions to spend some time tracking deer.
If you’ve already tagged out or would rather chase grouse than deer, Hoppe added that there still is some excellent bird hunting in the western part of the region.
PHOTO and caption:
*Editor’s Note* – I’m chuckling…..out loud too!
Hunters Excited About Deer Season As Deer Population Rebounds
AUGUSTA, Maine — Deer hunters are excited about the upcoming season, as deer numbers have rebounded from the back-to-back severe winters of 2008 and 2009. As a result, IFW wildlife biologists are expecting an increased deer harvest for the third straight year.
The firearm season for deer opens on Saturday, November 2 for residents and Monday, November 4 for nonresidents. The firearm season for deer concludes on November 30.
“Through strong management, conservation and some milder winter weather, Maine’s deer herd has rebounded,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “Hunters are excited as they are seeing more deer throughout the state. We wish them good luck this season, and as always, we urge everyone to be safe while enjoying Maine’s great outdoors.”
Kyle Ravana, Maine’s deer biologist, estimates that if normal hunting conditions and hunter effort prevail, this year’s dear kill will be in the 25,750 range, nearly a 20 percent increase from last year’s kill. The total deer kill for the last ten years is as follows: 2012 – 21,553; 2011 – 18,839; 2010 – 20,063; 2009 – 18,092; 2008 – 21,062; 2007 – 28,885; 2006 – 29,918; 2005 – 28,148; 2004 – 30,926; 2003 – 30,313.
“After the severe winters of ’08 and ’09, the department instituted ‘Maine’s Game Plan For Deer’, a three-pronged approach to restore Maine’s deer herd,” said Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “The three core principles of the game plan for deer include protecting and enhancing deer wintering areas, deer population management and focused predator control.”
At the core of Maine’s deer management program is the any-deer permit system, which regulates the harvest of does. One male deer will breed with multiple does, so by adjusting the number of female deer removed from the population, biologists can manage the deer population.
Maine’s wildlife biologists monitor winter severity throughout the state from December through April to determine the impact that winter weather has on deer survival. Maine is at the northern edge of the white-tailed deer’s population range, and severe winters can negatively impact Maine’s deer population. Recently, northern Maine has experienced four consecutive milder-than-average winters, and southern Maine has experienced two.
Maine’s biologists also examine thousands of deer for disease, analyze deer teeth to determine age structure of the harvest, monitor antler beam and growth for health and conduct hunter surveys to determine hunter effort and sightings. All combine to give department biologists a clearer picture of the health and size of Maine’s deer population.
The deer harvest has increased for the past three out of the last four years since hitting a low point following the severe winters of 2008 and 2009, a strong sign of a growing deer population. More importantly, several other indicators show that the deer herd has rebounded. Maine’s buck (male deer) harvest has increased for four straight years, and there have been record buck harvests in several wildlife management districts.
Harvest trends support the fact that the population has rebounded. Last year, WMD 3 in Eastern Aroostook County had its highest buck harvest ever, and WMD 6, while not a historical high, had one of its highest buck harvests ever. As a result of the increasing deer population in WMDs 3 and 6, the department issued any-deer permits in these WMDs 3 and 6 for 2013. Hunter surveys also show that hunters are seeing more deer.
Most telling is the annual buck kill, an index used by the department to note trends in the population. Maine’s buck kill has increased each of the past four years. Last year’s buck harvest increased 23% from the previous year. In much of the state, the buck kill exceeded the 10-year average, another sign the deer population has rebounded.
Perhaps more noticeable is the anecdotal evidence supporting the biological trends.
“There’s a buzz about the deer season. People are emailing, calling, telling us about the number of deer they are seeing,” said Ravana. “Now is a good time to be a hunter in Maine.”
Like the Legend of Grey Ghost, deer stories and perpetuated legends and lore remain healthy across Maine….all of which are true as true can be. And, it is that time of year when trigger fingers get itchy and of course with the whitetail deer hunting season opener for Maine residents less than one week away, the die-hards (hahdz as Mainer’s would say) are doing some serious scouting hoping for a chance at a “wicked good” buck.
If I tell too much about the below trail camera photos, I’ll have to be killed. But, I was told that the first two photos below were taken in Maine. As a kid, I remember it seemed this is what deer hunting in the Pine Tree State was really like, which makes me wonder if these photos captured a “ghost” of a deer.
And, running the risk that men in blaze orange suits will come and hunt me down, there’s a wicked good rumor that the buck, pictured in the photos above, might possibly be a direct descendent of Horace Hinkley’s legendary buck………or not (running scared here) and probably guilty of spreading more lore.
Ha, ha! I’m laughing this morning because of mostly opposite perspectives on what is important to deer hunters. Just nine days ago I posted a story entitled, “It’s the Meat Stupid” where surveys conducted by Responsive Management showed that more hunters hunted for meat rather than for antlers.
Today, we have a story that’s all about the antlers and how every hunter dreams of bagging a big set of antlers. Bob Humphrey, outdoor writer in Maine, while presenting an excellent piece about the whys and wherefores of antler growth in deer, I’m not sure actually how many hunters might dream of that mighty rack but the reality is they want meat.
In fairness to Humphrey, he doesn’t present the desire for big-antlered deer as generally some obsession and makes the statement, “There’s little question that every hunter’s dream is to one day bag a trophy buck…” I will agree that it is a dream but how many obsess on obtaining that dream? Even Humphrey says that few hunters will pass up meat: “most hunters are satisfied with shooting any antlered deer.”
It’s the meat, stupid! And should a hunter take a buck with heavy body weight and/or a large brush pile on top of its head, what a bonus.
One has to appreciate the enthusiasm being shown by Maine’s brand new deer biologist, Kyle Ravana, when he states, according to John Holyoke of the Bangor Daily News, “Our harvest has been increasing since the hard winters of 2008 and 2009. For all intents and purposes, I think our population is back to what it was before those winters.”
I fully understand that Maine has to sell hunting licenses to stay in business and really, no really, I would like nothing more than to arrive at hunting camp this fall and actually see deer in the woods and then not closely followed by a pack of coyotes. I also will not argue the fact that from what I saw this summer while in Maine, there are more deer around than in the previous 3 or 4. But that doesn’t spell for a “banner” deer season and a bumper crop, nor does it do much for the future of Maine’s deer herd. It shouldn’t also get hunters’ hopes so high they think all is well with deer management in Maine.
Rookie or not, Ravana, should perhaps scale back his enthusiasm just a tad and cease with the truth stretching or covering up unwanted facts. There’s too many of us old codgers who have hunted the woods for many, many years (many before Mr. Ravana was born) and while some things might be failing, long term memory is usually the last to go.
It was just over a month ago that I first made commentary on statements being made about Maine’s deer herd. Please find that article at this link.
I don’t want to get bogged down in trivial pursuits here but would like to point out a few things. Mr. Ravana states that Maine’s “long-term average” in deer population is 217,000 and his estimate for this year is 203,000. This is mostly guess work based on assumptions. However, it is difficult at best to know whether this information can actually be substantiated because the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) does not make deer population estimates readily available and I have yet to have any of my requests for population data, including fawn recruitment rates and age structure answered.
Ravana also claims that the “long-term average” deer harvest is “around 27,000.” This sort of salesmanship reminds me of the young fisherman who was being taught by his father how to estimate the length of a fish he had caught when relating that story to friends and family. The father said, “If you catch a 9-inch trout, don’t tell anyone you caught a 9-inch trout. Tell them you don’t think it would go over 15 inches.”
Even if that was the “long-term average” and the protected harvest, as is being claimed, will run around 25,000-26,000, that’s a far cry from a banner year. In 1959 hunters took “around” 42,000 deer that year or should I say I wouldn’t think they took more that 60,000?
In my previous article I pointed out that between the years of 1945 and 1965, the average deer harvest was 36,112. In comparison, the past decade has averaged 24,766. If you get “around 27,000″ out of that, more power to you.
Also pointed out was that Ravana estimated that the deer herd had recovered to levels “before those winters” [those two infamous back to back severe winters of 2008, 2009]. That’s really nothing to brag about. The five years previous to the two severe winters, the average deer harvest was “around” 29,638. Again, that’s a far, far cry from a banner year.
But the real issue I want to point out here is that even using MDIFW’s excuse (note very little credibility do they place on predator destruction of deer and moose) that it was the severe winters that killed off all the deer, nothing has been done to allow for the next series of bad winters. What I see is MDIFW anxiously selling more and more “Any-Deer” permits, especially in places they shouldn’t be, in order to generate income. Such a move is disastrous to the health of a deer herd, or any other for that matter. Wouldn’t it be prudent to keep population densities higher than “average” and yet still remain within desired deer/sq. mile? Very few places in Maine have achieved population density goals. Evidently selling more tags is more important.
And how do all these numbers add up to what is written in Maine’s Plan for Deer and the current Deer Management Plan? I’ll have to investigate that and report back in.
While it is being reported that the world is flushing $1 billion a day down the toilet “to tackle global warming” don’t hold your breath waiting for Maine’s deer herd to keep on growing. Why? It was during the winters between December of 2007 and March of 2009 that MDIFW claims the deer all died. During this same time frame, Al Gore and his minions where raking in billions of dollars while telling people we were all going to die from a warming planet. I’m actually waiting for global warming. Things are much better when people and wildlife don’t have to suffer severe winters.
And when wildlife management is based on fictitious nonsense about man made global warming, lady luck becomes the wildlife biologist. And, gasp! What will Maine do if the predictions that we are heading into a long people of cooling are true? Another gasp!
*Scroll Down for an Update*
*Editor’s Note* Below is a copy of a document that I just emailed to Maine’s Governor Paul LePage and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner, Chandler Woodcock. It is no secret that I and many other hunters are displeased that we should have to wait 3 or 4 months after the close of deer, bear, moose seasons to get any information on harvest numbers – and how about a turkey harvest? Most all other states provide rapid, and in some cases, real time harvest data. I took the time, with some help from some of my friends, to craft a plan that I think will work, if nothing more than providing a starting point.
We live in an ever-changing world of technology and it is a reasonable request to have more timely access to this data. If you agree, let Mr. LePage and Mr. Woodcock know. I would like your support.
It is my sincere belief that hunters want and would appreciate a more timely report on the deer/bear/turkey/moose harvest numbers during and immediately after the season has closed. In the last several years, deer harvest reports are not made available to anyone until at least March and sometimes April; bear and moose harvest information takes longer than that.
For comparison, I include a small sampling of how other states do their registering/tagging. Please not that all of these states listed are able to provide near real time harvest numbers at any point during the deer hunting season.
Ohio – mandatory reporting, done either by telephone, online or by visiting a licensing agent. I believe this year is the first year that Ohio has fully eliminated a visit to a tagging station.
Nebraska – Uses a combination of tagging stations and telephone registering.
Kentucky – Uses a “Telecheck” harvest reporting system. Fully automated and provides real time information.
Wisconsin – Uses a system very similar to Maine’s current system but still can provide harvest data within 2 days.
Iowa – Mandatory reporting by either online, telephone or at licensing agent.
*Note – In those states that that still use tagging stations, it is my understanding that the fish and game departments require the tagging agents to submit harvest data daily or weekly.
Below I have suggestions on how Maine might be able to accomplish faster harvest information and at the same time collect better data.
Please understand that I’m not suggesting an end to the gathering of important data used for deer management. As a matter of fact, I’m offering ways of collecting more and better data which can only help the process and provide for a better product, and this system will free up more staff time in order that more time and personnel can be utilized counting deer, checking deer yards and implementing predator control when circumstances demand it.
We live in a rapidly advancing age of technology and therefore the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) should take advantage of that, while at the same time putting some of the onus onto the sportsmen, to more positively participate in the process. This will accomplish several things, the crux of which will be a tremendous public relations benefit to MDIFW and a greater sense of ownership for the sportsmen. An achievement such as this can be a great benefit to all parties concerned.
Here are my suggestions: (Please understand also that automated telephone reporting systems as well as computer data collecting software is readily available at a low price or even perhaps free is some shopping around was done.)
Mandatory Reporting – All licensed hunters will be required to report their game take along with hunting activity and all other data desired by MDIFW. This reporting can be done Online or by telephone. Any game taken, i.e. deer, bear, turkey, moose (all currently tagged game) can be reported online or by telephone within 12 hours (or 24hrs). The reporting systems will be automated and designed to collect and compile the data provided. Vital information can be collected and processed electronically at the time of reporting. This immediate reporting will enable MDIFW to have up to date, almost real time harvest numbers to report to sportsmen and the public. At the end of the season, all licensed sportsmen will be required, within one week, to report online or by telephone, and fill out a survey. This must be done by all sportsmen whether they are successful or not. Better information can be collected that will vastly improve on the ability of wildlife managers to set seasons and bag limits, as well as better understand what is taking place in the field. This information can be collected about all aspects of hunting to gain a better and more accurate understanding of how many, how often and how many hours hunters go afield and what game they are seeking and taking.
Setting up Check Points – MDIFW gathers vital biological data at some tagging stations. I believe the same information can be collected by strategically placing check stations where hunters will be required to stop for data collection. This is done very successfully in other states; states that also have mandatory reporting.
Data Collection with Commercial Meat Processing Plants – MDIFW should continue to collect biological data from meat processing facilities.
Dealing with Non Reporters – Several states do not use a tagging system as Maine does. Instead they implement a mandatory reporting system (either required by the hunter or the tagging agent), and with pretty good success, I might add. I’ve taken the time to include only five states that do that now. See above. I’ve already pointed out the positives that can come from reporting. Mandatory or not, we will still run into a certain percentage of sportsmen who will not report, particularly those not successful in taking game or poachers who will fail to obey any laws; as the events that took place recently in Turner. There are ways to deal with this. While not wanting to appear as some heavy handed authoritative figure, full implementation of this plan is necessary for the greatest success. A suggestion might be that for those failing to complete a hunter survey, will be ineligible to buy a license the following year.
*Update – December 5, 2012 12:50* It took approximately 11 minutes to receive an email response from Commission Woodcock:
I sincerely appreciate your efforts with this important discussion. We at IF+W, and many other sportsmen and women, have similar observations. Here at the department, have had several discussion about electronic tagging possibilities as well as reporting requirements. We are currently investigating electronic options.
I share your desire to have immediacy. It also appears that we share similar concerns.
We continue to examine the issue and I believe that there will be changes forthcoming reasonably soon. The discussion has complexities as you are well aware and we certainly need biological data.
Again, thanks. And safe travels.