December 12, 2019

There’s More to Recruiting Hunters Than Sticking Them in a Blind and Parading Deer By Them to Shoot

When Judy Camuso was nominated to serve at the position of the head of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), in her testimony before the Joint Standing Committee for fish and wildlife, she pointed out that as part of her plan to grow more hunters and fisherman, she intended to become involved in a nationwide recruitment program, R3. She stated that her plan, “…will include measurable goals for recruiting, retaining and reactivating hunters and anglers but it will build relationships with non-consumptive users as well.” 

In a critique of Commissioner Camuso’s ambitious programs as commissioner, I questioned her intent to bring together consumptive and non consumptive users, while at the same time believing the two can work productively toward the same goals that satisfy both sides AND recruit new hunters and fishermen.

Today I was reading a Press Herald story about the MDIFW’s efforts at “recruiting” new hunters by allowing 9 hunters to be guided (spoon fed) on a deer “hunt” on the state-owned Swan’s Island.

I commend the commissioner and the MDIFW at making a swipe at recruitment. However, I am left with lots of questions about the event, the methods and within the article some comments and information that was given that was perhaps incomplete, leaving readers with a misguided understanding of the whys and wherefores of hunting, retention, and recruitment (R3).

The article in reference referred to Swan Island as “the perfect classroom” stating, “The place has become a haven for deer, which congregate in fields in groups as large as 50.” It may be, by one reporter’s perspective, as the “perfect classroom” but it is representative of what deer hunting in Maine is like? Who gets to do that? What happens when these 9 people (who expressed an interest in trying again) go off on their own and perhaps can’t afford a blind or a swivel seat to go in it? (It used to be a pot and a window…but I digress.) Will they ever see that many deer again?

“IFW set up pop-up camouflage tents to serve as blinds, equipping them with special swivel chairs that let the newbies quietly pivot as they watched the woods.” Even being “coached” by Game Wardens, staff, and biologists about “hunting techniques,” I wonder if it’s being all that honest with any possible recruit to place them in a ground blind where as many as 50 deer in a group might pass by because hunting has not been allowed on Swan Island for 50 years?

The article states that the 9 novice hunter program was a success because, “…seven of the nine bagged a deer,” and, “all the participants expressed an interest in hunting again.” Not knowing the reasons all 9 applicants were interested in this hunt to begin with, one has to wonder if sitting in a cold blind for hours on end and never seeing a deer, for years on end, a “novice” would express interest in trying it again? Maybe that has something to do with fewer licenses being sold?

In an attempt to place blame for loss of hunters and failure to recruit or retain more hunters, the author brings out the “numbers” and the talking point excuses of where the blame lies: “…technology;  overscheduled lives, especially for young families; and the aging of fish and game clubs that once formed the heart of the hunting community.”

HUH?

The last time I examined data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on why license sales for hunting were on the decline, the number one excuse given for not taking to the woods to hunt, was lack of time.

It’s easy to blame technology. Anyone with two eyes can see what so-called technology and social media is doing to American Society in general. Over-scheduled lives is a poor catchall excuse. Scheduling of our lives is driven by interest not by somebody’s “technology.” If hunting was part of the talk around the kitchen table, where that heritage is discussed before, during, and after the deer hunting season, people would find the time to hunt.

There are other reasons recruitment and interest to hunt are in decline…or in what might appear to be interest in hunting. One issue was discussed in the article in question. It began by discussing Apprentice Hunter Licenses. Bragging that the Apprentice Program has been around over a decade, listen to the hoops that need to be jumped through: “That license, which costs $26 for Mainers (and $115 for non-residents), allows someone 16 years or older who has never had a valid hunting license to hunt in the presence of a “supervisor.” The supervisor must be at least 18 and have had a hunting license for the previous three years.” Money, money, money and more “educational” programs that not just a perspective hunter has to go through in hopes they might become a longtime hunter.

You’ll always ruffle up the dander on the backs of some necks when you start discussing things like the potential obstacles any hunter or perspective hunter must go through to get their feet wet in hunting, or bringing a long-time hunter from Maine or away back when they have to take valuable time to attend classes for hunter “safety” and show “proficiency” in handling a gun and shooting it. While hunter safety has certainly made the woods during the deer hunt much safer, has anyone honestly assessed as to whether the decline in participation is directly proportional to the time constraints of hunter education, license costs, and…and…and…? Maybe, hunter education has stopped the total abandonment of hunting. Does anybody know? Does anybody care?

So, whenever we allow someone to feed us “data” that shows license sales and all the rigged demographics that go with them, nowhere is it ever discussed as to how hunter recruitment, retention, and re-interest is influenced by lousy hunting. Years spent afield with seldom, if ever, even spotting a deer probably plays as big a deterrent as anything, including technology and over-scheduled lives – time and money for what?

Just a quick glimpse into the past and it doesn’t take a statistics guru to figure out that as the deer harvest is trending down, down, and down (yes, with a couple false spikes upward) deer hunting license sales are also trending down, down, and down. Is it that we are not supposed to talk about such things? Is this why 9 novice hunters (out of 20 applicants) were placed in a blind on a small island that hasn’t been hunted for 50 years and deer sometimes will, literally, run you over? What’s wrong with bringing them to where my blind is? Where I haven’t seen a deer in years? I’m trying to remember when the last time I was able to sit in a blind – with a “special swivel seat” (wink-wink) where as many as 50 deer to a bunch passed by. Forget it. It NEVER happens in the real world. So, is MDIFW hoodwinking perspective hunters? How often will MDIFW continue to offer these free lunches to those who say they might be interested in deer hunting? Until the deer on Swan Island are all gone? Will potential recruits have to buy a license, and buy an “Any-Deer Permit,” like the rest of us do, when deer numbers on the island dwindle, like everywhere else in the state?

I’m not sure I know any real Maine hunters who don’t think it would be a great idea to recruit more hunters. I don’t know of any real Maine hunters who don’t think that if there were more deer perhaps the three “Rs” would take care of themselves. But what do I know?

I’m just a grumpy Ole Maine Hunter.

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Biggest Bucks of Maine Per Year of Deer Harvest

Most people in Maine and other parts of deer hunter havens across the country, know that the biggest buck, by weight, ever taken in Maine was in 1955. Horace Hinkley’s record buck weighed in at 355 pounds.

There were two hunters who tied for second largest bucks recorded at 310 pounds, 42 years apart. Do you know who they were and where the deer were taken? Visit Troy Frye’s Facebook page and you can get a list of the biggest bucks taken in Maine, the year they were taken, the hunter’s name, and where the deer was shot.

Thanks Troy!!

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2018 Maine Deer Harvest By County

Kennebec County in Maine, had the greatest 2018 deer harvest. If you would like to see what each Maine country had for a deer harvest in 2018, please visit Troy Frye’s Facebook Page.

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Ayuh! A Biggun! Wicked Lotta Hohns Too!

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Too Many Deer Being Harvested?

Yeah, I know. I’m never satisfied. It’s either too hot or too cold, etc. However, just asking!

According to Bill Green of Bill Green’s Maine, hunters have taken 30,299 deer through the regular firearms season. Muzzleloader season remains.

Last season, 2017, total deer harvest of all disciplines, totaled 27,233. Easily Maine will exceed a 10% increase in deer harvested. Last year Maine muzzleloader hunters took 970 deer, so we might add another 1,000 deer to the 30,299 when harvest totals are completed.

I have discussed numbers and asked questions before, so let’s do this one more time. In 2017 Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) allotted 66,050 “Any-Deer Permits” (ADP) with tags used totaling 6,054 doe (antlerless) deer. This harvest was 13% less than deer manager’s harvest projections.

My question going into this deer hunting season with MDIFW issuing a record number of ADPs, 84,745, was why did the projected “Any-Deer” harvest fall 13% short? Evidently, MDIFW managers believe that increasing the number of ADPs will increase the number of females, or antlerless deer harvested. But, do we know that falling short of projections was the result of not enough permits issued? It is important to have this information.

There’s a problem with issuing record numbers of ADPs, even if the majority of those ADPs are issued for Wildlife Management Districts (WMD) with more deer per square mile than managers desire – and one of those problems is what we have seen this season with hunters being able to hunt on lots of snow (in many places) for extended periods of time (three weeks in most of Western Maine).

I don’t have any scientific data to support any claim that it seems that it is in those areas with the most snow, falling on the earliest dates, are in those WMDs where deer per square mile is extremely sparse. With early snow in those areas combined with a record number of ADPs, have we harvested too many deer? What will this cost us?

While it is nice for hunters that 31,000 deer have been harvested, the increase in harvest is NOT due to an increase in the overall population of deer throughout the state. What does this mean for next year’s deer harvest? While it’s too early to predict, with better than two feet of snow on the ground in the Western Foothills, and we haven’t reached December yet, are we staring down the barrel of another “severe” winter that will wipe out the rest of the herd? Do deer managers factor in the possibility of hunters having snow to hunt on nearly the entire season, which in and of itself causes harvest numbers to increase? This amount of snow this early is not even close to approaching normal. (Damned the Global Warming)

Are we going to pay for this and if so, how much?

Addendum:

I have spent many years bitching and complaining that MDIFW cannot get deer harvest numbers out to the public in some time period less than 6-8 months after the fact. MDIFW has finally done it and digitalized the tagging process so that this information is at the hands of managers instantly.

While it appears that the only way to get that information is to contact someone at MDIFW and hope for cooperation, we can get occasional updates from media sources who get cooperation, such as Bill Green.

I have expressed that there are few excuses to use that would prohibit the managers from placing live tagging information on the MDIFW website and would certainly like to see this in another year. We’ll see.

With that all said, congratulations and thank you to the personnel at MDIFW for getting this task moved into the modern era and that we can at least have harvest data that we don’t have to wait months for.

*Editor’s Note* – Within moments of publishing this report, MDIFW published a press release with deer harvest information. You can read their report by clicking on this link.

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A Most Different Thanksgiving

Yesterday, I awoke around 5 a.m. to -2 degrees F. Need I remind readers it is only November? With around 16 inches of snow on the ground and the wind whipping at times to 25 miles per hour, I’m not such a die-hard whitetail deer hunter, anymore, that I felt inspired to get out in this crap. Instead, I journeyed east on a three-hour car ride for Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends.

My eighteen-year-old Florida van, that has never seen salt or any temperatures below 32 degrees, made some of the darndest noises as it mumbled and grumbled in protest even louder than I was. I kept asking questions like, what the heck is that noise and consoling the old girl telling her it will be okay. You’ll be back in Florida in a couple of weeks, and I’ll give you a nice bath.

As in most any car, regardless of its age, riding on frozen Maine highways makes you think something has seriously happened to the suspension. By the time I got to my destination, I got a rush of memories of winters of many years gone by when I spotted the dark brown globs of frozen slush directly behind each wheel. The frozen reminders of nastiness were all large enough that the tires themselves kept the size shaved down, and each time I hit a “frost heave” or a pothole, the compression of the vehicle kept the bottoms of each mini iceberg from growing beyond its maximum.

As I drove along the highway, carefully monitoring my engine temperature gauge wondering if I have the right mixture of coolant/antifreeze to keep the engine from freezing, I began to reminisce about what the sides of the roads used to look like on Thanksgiving Day – each old logging road would have a car or truck parked in it, as hunters have hit the woods. In my 3-hour journey, mostly covering back roads, I saw none. I took notice of all vehicles I spotted, looking for “hunter orange” clothing – hats, vests, jackets, even the now shied away from rifle racks for fear of “offending” someone. I saw three that I suspected were going to or coming from hunting.

Is this the case because it was so cold? It’s been cold before. Is it because it was a holiday? Isn’t it a Maine tradition for hunting families to have Thanksgiving dinner after dark because the daytime is spent trying in near desperation to fill that tag? Or maybe there just aren’t many people left who hunt – perhaps because there are so few deer left, getting motivated to hunt in the cold is extremely difficult to do.

It’s Friday morning now. The temperature on my deck thermometer reads 10 degrees – “We’re having a heat wave!” There are today and tomorrow and then the deer hunting season draws to an end. I’m struggling to reason and to find excuses I guess. There’s snow to hunt on but it’s a bit deep and crusty/crunchy. It is also cold to be out long.

What to do? I leave for Florida for the winter in just a few days. Do I want to shoot a deer and then rush around to get the deer processed? I’ve frozen the meat and packed it in ice for the trip to Florida before, but I’m not sure I want to do that again.

The forecast says Saturday, the last day, high temps here are to reach a balmy 33 degrees.

Maybe tomorrow will be a better day for us fair-weather fairies to take one more whack at it.

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Carry In, Carry Out

Carry In

Carry Out

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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!

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Maine’s Forgotten “Game Plan for Deer”

Does anybody remember? Maine had/has a deer problem. What was/is the problem? There are not enough deer statewide, and when combined with predator devastation, harsh winters (global warming isn’t helping) and grumbling began the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) figured they best do something to appease the grumblers. Thus was born Maine’s Game Plan for Deer.

The farce was devised and published in March of 2011. *Note* I would highly recommend (if you give a rat’s patootie) that you go to this link quickly and download it into your computer files for safekeeping and future reference before it disappears…again.

I wrote extensively during that time about the plan, and in those writings provided readers with a link to the Plan. Unfortunately, like with hundreds of other documents, when MDIFW rebuilt their website, which is difficult at best to navigate and impossible at times to find anything, all of the previous links became void – perhaps by design.

This morning I began to think again about this document and plan and wondered why so much time, money, and effort was put into devising this piece of propaganda. At the time I called the work a worthless document and asked if MDIFW practiced deer management as a hobby. I wrote: “The Maine Game Plan for Deer is a worthless document until a strong and united effort is undertaken. It has to be more than task force creations, meetings, talk, and rhetoric, while fractured small groups or individuals practice futility. It appears Maine has to learn how to build a coalition that brings everybody onto the same page. Until that happens the only rebuilding of any deer herds will be happenstance.”

Game management history in Maine should have taught us that the mandated 15-year management plans are nothing more than typical political bureaucratic nonsense. This is proven out because nothing ever written in these plans is followed and when game managers remove themselves and their work from those plans, their excuses are that “best available science” changes and managers have to change with those changes. Yeah, OK!

Now, we have learned that Maine’s Game Plan for Deer was another political appeasement, a worthless document designed to get the complaining idiot hunters (their perceptions) off their back. Essentially, the Plan was tossed in the garbage and disregarded. Didn’t this become evident when the pretty document was scrubbed from the MDIFW website?

And then we have the surveys that MDIFW paid ridiculous amounts of money for saying they wanted to make their management plans based on what “stakeholders” (including anti-hunters, environmentalists, and animal rights radicals) wanted and their perceptions of existing game management.

We can easily assume that all previous game management plans, including Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, became null and void after Responsive Management devised the outcome based, scientismic, Delphi Technique enhanced answers to rigged questions.

We also can only assume that the new 15-year deer management plan that calls for reducing the deer population, stopping counting game animals, and strive for hocus-pocus “healthy” deer is the result of the SURVEY! Wink-wink and Kumbaya!

What’s odd though is that spending a considerable amount of time read searching the published results of that Survey, I don’t recall any questions, concerns, or comments about “stakeholders” wanting to stop counting game, reducing game populations, and/or putting a focus on healthy deer rather than focusing on growing a deer herd that would provide better opportunities to hunt and to boost the success rate, which in turn would continue to keep interest in deer hunting stable or growing.

Or maybe the new 15-year plan is newly devised to create just the opposite because that’s what Environmentalism and animal rights perverts, saturating the department, want.

So, why do we have a department of fish and wildlife? It’s all part of the rigged system. They waste money by devising wicked and worthless documents, convincing people they have our interest at heart, and evidently, we fail miserably in not seeing the scam.

MDIFW, like all government bureaucracies, is going to do just as they damn well please. First up on that agenda is to do what is necessary to keep fake biologists and game managers employed, at least long enough to collect a pension. The art is making the people think they are doing worthwhile, commendable work is a must.

Your government at work! Nice…real nice.

Maybe we need to develop a task force to look into this.

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Is Maine Really in the Midst of Deer Hunting Season?

I wonder if the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is ashamed or embarrassed that it is regulating and administering the state’s annual deer hunting season? – or any of the big game hunting seasons for that matter.

Someone visiting the state would have no idea unless they happened to see some people running around with hunter orange clothing on, but then again, blaze orange is often daily attire for some of the locals. The majority of Maine residents don’t even know the deer hunt is on. Didn’t it use to be a right of passage? Didn’t kids skip school, with or without their parents’ permission, to go deer hunting? Hell, I did!!! Once I even went to the boys’ room and lit a cigarette (I didn’t smoke) so I would get expelled from school to have more time to deer hunt. The principal laughed at me and told me I would have to wait until Saturday like everyone else.

It was a time when the fish and game department got to brag about the successes of their efforts at managing deer, touting the number of deer tagged, even in estimations. In a way, it was the canary in the coal mine of successful deer management.

Is that what’s going on? Is the MDIFW refusing to acknowledge the deer season because they are ashamed of how global warming has yet to produce more deer? Or maybe it’s because most managers are believers in nonconsumptive use – that animals should be protected from all killing, even when scientifically proven over generations to be the trophy model of success. The brainwashing is in full metal jacket.

I’ve spoken often of what appears to be the deliberate act of not placing live data of deer tagging on the websites so we can all see. If you are a mainstream media person in good standing with MDIFW, you can call or email and ask for some numbers, but not the rest of us. MDIFW even fails to take 5 minutes (omg we just don’t have the resources to do that) to send out a press release on their website with a brief update about the hunting season. It’s really like the preteen who insists their parents drop them off a block away from the school for fear the parent might embarrass them somehow.

How do we maintain hunters, say nothing of recruiting new ones, if the MDIFW appears ashamed of the event?

Yesterday, the MDIFW took enough time to release their “Monthy Review.” And what was in the monthly review? About anything except hardly a mention about hunting.

Commissioner Woodcock expresses appreciation to private landowners for land access, we can read about the “mysteries of bats,” honoring fallen game wardens, salmon in Sebago Lake, or learn more about chronic wasting disease.

Whatever happened to the sense of pride in Maine’s deer, bear, and moose hunting seasons?

It is extremely obvious that the MDIFW has little or no interest in such things anymore and is a precursor to what lies ahead for those left who still enjoy hunting. I’ll give it 10 years, perhaps as many as 20, and it will be a violation to hunt any animal, which would be difficult to do considering that the totalitarians will have what guns they can take away from us and it will be unlawful to own any.

God, the future looks bright, doesn’t it?

I don’t want to be this way. I don’t want to berate the MDIFW, but for 50 years I have paid my way and now the department is too conscience-stricken to even publically speak of one of Maine’s historical events that used to knit a community together. There’s a lot more to “Git ya deeyah yet?” than the poking fun of hunters it is today. It was all that was talked about. Now people get “offended” when they see or even hear about deer hunting.

Evidently, the MDIFW is the same way.

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