August 21, 2019

In “Big Woods” of Wisconsin Deer Fawn Survival Rate Only 20%

A recent study, according to a Field and Stream report, says that in northern Wisconsin deer fawn mortality rate runs about 80%, the most deaths caused by predators.

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With No Signs of Deer Population Recovery, Maine Increases “Any-Deer” Permits 29%

Each spring, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) claims to crunch their data and do very serious contemplating to come up with how many “Any-Deer” Permits to issue for each of the state’s Wildlife Management Districts (WMD). Allotment of “Any-Deer” Permits is the only tool used by MDIFW to regulate the growth, up or down, of the whitetail deer herd. In theory, if the department wants to lower a deer population in a given WMD, it issues more permits. In the reverse, if the state needs to grow a population, provided that population is not beyond sustainability, the number of permits issued will be reduced.

With the State of Maine still trying to figure out what it is going to do to rebuild the deer herd in geographically two-thirds of the state, the MDIFW has decided it will increase the number of “Any-Deer” Permits by 29%. Granted there still remains no permits issued in those areas deemed to be the most severely affected by predator annihilation of deer (MDIFW will not admit this), but my jaw is left agape to learn that MDIFW has decided to increase the number of permits in the rest of the state, when just 2 years ago MIDFW admitted their shock to discover, through aerial counting, most of Maine’s WMDs contained fewer deer than guesstimated. Combine that with the fact that deer harvest over the past three seasons has remained flat and at near record level lows and any sane person wants to ask, “What in the hell are they doing?”

Is this action about finding ways to increase revenue to MDIFW at the risk of further depleting the deer herd in the rest of the state, or is this about building the herd to carrying capacity and managing for a healthy herd?

Poor deer management, somewhat the result of MDIFW using funds for nongame programs that should have been going to keep a better watch on the deer herd, has resulted in a state that has become most undesirable to out-of-state hunters, costing MIDFW and the state hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now, clamoring to find funding to pay MDIFW salaries and benefits, is the fish and game department willing to further deplete the deer population in order to meet budgetary demands? It appears that way.

The only explanation, so far, given as to the reason for the increase in permits, is found on the official rule changed issued by the MDIFW and signed by Commissioner Woodcock.

This statement claims that the reason for increasing the permits would be to “enable populations in central Maine to track more quickly towards population goals and objectives.” From this then we are to conclude that MDIFW’s objective is to reduce deer populations in central Maine. How can this be? Only two years ago, these deer numbers were below objective. Does MDIFW want the deer herd reduced to levels where another winter or two of extreme cold and heavy snow pack would wipe them out again? Are they really relying on a return of global warming to do the job for them?

I am quite certain that MDIFW will claim, as they did after waiting nearly 5 months for the deer harvest data, that the decrease in harvest of deer was the result of a reduction in “Any-Deer” Permits. While I contend that may have contributed to that reduction it certainly was not the sole reason.

This move by MDIFW, coming smack dab in the middle of a troubling time, when the Maine people are wondering when, if ever, they will see a return to a healthy deer population, deserves a better, more detailed and precise explanation for their decision to do this. But don’t hold your breath. They are notorious for sticking their noses high in the air and refusing to provide the information, that if accurate and scientifically based, would help put doubts to rest, and forcing sportsmen to continue distrusting the MDIFW.

One has to wonder if deer management has become an unwanted task at MDIFW and if they can figure a way to finish destroying the deer herd, their money and efforts can be more focused on counting bats, identifying butterflies, growing their love affair with predators and saving piping plovers.

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Who’s Counting Deer in Maine Anyway?


Photo editorial compliments of Richard Paradis

While some media outlets across the state of Maine are reporting on Gov. LePage signing a handful of bills to fund portions of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), from the perspective of someone who has a slightly higher than average grasp of the deer herd situation in Maine, I have to wonder who’s counting deer and making deer density estimates. Somewhat in fairness to those who might be creating the numbers, what makes its way into press pieces may be more of a product of poor reporting, the result of accepting numbers without substantiating the claims.

The Portland Press Herald this morning reports on the governor’s efforts to do something about saving the deer herd. In laying out claims of deer densities across the state, the article states that, “it hovers around 40 to 50 [per square mile] in southern and some coastal areas and islands”, as they say was reported to them by David Trahan, who is Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. It should be made clear here that all of “Southern Maine” is not populated with deer densities running 40 – 50 per square miles. I think this is a matter of poor choice of words to describe that in some pockets of Southern Maine and some coastal areas and some islands, you will find those densities. It is not the norm.

But the blaring error, at least from my perspective and I don’t think I’m alone, is the claim that Maine’s deer population is around 250,000. In Maine’s hay day years of record deer populations of around 300,000 plus, historically the harvest struggled to reach 10% or 30,000 deer. If Maine’s present deer population was 250,000 one might expect the harvest numbers to be approaching 25,000. The deer harvest over the last 3 hunting seasons has averaged just under 19,000 animals. That statistic alone would draw one to conclude that the population might be closer to 200,000 than 250,000, a near 25% difference.


Photo editorial compliments of Richard Paradis

In the Press Herald report was the following: “a new law that expands the mission of a state deer-management fund to include preserving deer yards, in addition to its traditional focus on controlling coyotes.” (Emphasis added)

The “new law” in reference here will do little to “preserve deer yards”. At 19,000 deer tagged, times 2 dollars is $38,000. While all help should be welcomed, let’s not paint a picture of something that isn’t going to happen on $38,000 a year. There is a bond issue that awaits the Governor’s signature (most doubt he will sign it) that would appropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars to Land for Maine’s Future. Some of that money is to be used in the “protection/preservation of deer yards”. Even George Smith, former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, says this amount of money will do little in buying up and protecting deer yards. Perhaps if a plan could be devised first, it might be helpful.

Laughable was the phrase, “traditional focus on controlling coyotes”. Traditional? Before something can become a tradition, it first has to have been tried…..at least once if I may be so generous. Maine has no tradition of focusing on controlling coyotes. Quiet the contrary. Maine’s tradition has been more to ignore problems and protect the predator, while members of the MDIFW, along with animal rights groups and environmentalists lay false claims that coyotes make for a healthy ecosystem.

I would also like to point out another thing that caught my eye in media accounts of Gov. LePage’s bill signing. I found it in the Press Herald article as well as other press releases.

Deer hunting and viewing in Maine generate at least $200 million per year in spending on guide and outfitting services, hunting camps, motels, restaurants and related businesses, Burns said.

Burns refers to Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, who is the sponsor of one of the pieces of legislation that Gov. LePage signed. What has happened here, as has happened all across the nation, is that environmentalists have hijacked the claims of revenue generated from hunting and related businesses to include “viewing”. It’s a farce and a shame really. There are no statistics or studies to prove that so-called wildlife viewing generates any substantial amount of revenue to the state. Some have attempted to steal the reality by invoking information provided by polls done that show how many people like to “watch wildlife”. What has never been differentiated in these polls is how many “wildlife watchers” are hunters and how many pure “wildlife watchers” there really are.

A prime example of this hijacking is found in Yellowstone Park. Officials there polled visitors and asked them if they saw wolves or would like to see wolves. They took those responses and concluded that that number of people came to Yellowstone Park for the sole purpose of viewing wolves. They attempt to use these numbers to falsely pin a monetary value to wolf watching. It’s almost criminal.

At the rate the environmentalists are laying claim to things they don’t own, or had anything to do with, they will soon be claiming they are responsible for every nickel that comes into the state and as a result will demand control over it. Oh, wait! They already are!

Tom Remington

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Maine Not “All In” In Commitment To Restore Deer Herd But We Should be Encouraged

According to George Smith, blogger and former executive director for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the Maine Legislative Appropriations Committee, approved a supplemental spending budget for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) for $350,000, of which $100,000 is supposed to be used for “LD 372, An Act to Reduce Deer Predation”.

On January 24, 2012, in an article comparing efforts by outdoor sportsmen groups from Maine and Utah, I seriously questioned whether or not promises made by Maine’s Governor Paul LePage, during his gubernatorial campaign, was all talk and no action.

If Maine and the governor honestly are committed to the rebuilding of the deer herd to keep a vibrant industry providing jobs and upholding traditions and heritage, the value of investment would be realized and the Governor and Legislature would find the money to kill a lot of coyotes, reduce bear populations, protect wintering habitat, etc.

To continue my expounding on the doubts of Maine’s total commitment to deer hunting as a necessary part of that state’s economy, along with the long and storied heritage that has been a part of what makes Maine great, on March 15, 2012, I exposed MDIFW’s sparce commitment due to it’s lack of a publicly written and easily accessed “mission statement.

In all honesty, how can the people of Maine feel any kind of certainty that MDIFW is committed to managing it’s game population for surplus harvest, if they cannot publicly state that? Not doing so only leads us to believe that is NOT their goal and as such, why throw away tax dollars for MDIFW’s wildlife hobbies?

On March 28, 2012, I wrote an article in which I questioned whether Maine was “all in” when it comes to this commitment to rebuild a deer herd. I asked many questions.

So, where is Maine’s commitment? What has IFW done? Are there studies that could be done with a commitment of money? Who is finding that money? What has the governor done? When was the last time that senators Snowe and Collins got involved in Maine’s commitment to restore the deer herd? If Sen. Reid can find millions of dollars, can we assume that Snowe and/or Collins could as well? Have all Maine’s hunters and trappers and outdoor sportsman’s groups anted up?

If the commitment is lacking, then perhaps there is also lacking a firm belief in the seriousness of the problem. Or, the belief exists but a poor job of selling and recruiting all influential people stands in the way.

On May 1, 2012, I wrote:

I am assuming, which might be a mistake, that before the Governor and MDIFW made a public announcement of their commitment to rebuild Maine’s deer herd, they crunched some numbers and explored all aspects of the hunting industry in order to decide whether or not declaring “all in” was an investment that was responsible and in the best interest of the people of Maine.

Surprising many, the Maine Appropriations Committee has coughed up $138,000 on two programs to be used to directly or indirectly help the deer herd. It’s now up to the Governor to sign these bills. Will he?

If Gov. LePage signs these bills, it will be far from “all in” but it would be far more encouraging than the crickets we were hearing prior to this and no positive words that any money would be available.

I suggest sportsmen get on the phone and email and let the governor’s office know you urge him to sign these bills.

Tom Remington

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In Maine: Youth Hunting vs. Rebuilding a Deer Herd

The state of Maine has a bit of a dilemma. One one hand, efforts are and have been underway to develop programs to get kids out from behind their computers and electronic devices and into the woods to hunt, fish and trap. On the other hand, that’s a difficult thing to accomplish when there aren’t any deer to hunt. By the way, save the talking points about how great the turkey and grouse hunting are and other small game. The fact is deer hunting is the most popular hunting activity in Maine.

George Smith, administrator of the blog, GeorgeSmithMaine.com and former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, writes that a proposed rule change to allow Maine’s youth, on Youth Day, to kill antlerless deer in zones where no permits are issued, is a “controversy brewing”.

How big of a controversy remains to be seen but here’s a look at some of both sides of the issue. On the Saturday before the regular firearms season for deer opens in Maine, there is a Youth Day for hunting. This Youth Day was formulated as part of a plan to encourage kids to hunt. A special day, just for them, set aside before the regular season, when deer aren’t so nerved up and timid, in which underage hunters, accompanied by an adult, could venture into the woods to hunt and follow all existing game rules.

Beginning during the 2009 deer season, the awarding of “Any-Deer Permits” was ended entirely in many of the Northern, Downeast and Western Mountains regions of Maine – 18 Wildlife Management Districts all together. This was due to a collapsing deer herd. The taking of doe deer in these zones has been prohibited since and this included Youth Day hunting as well.

Part of the dilemma is that if we cannot recruit at least enough new hunters to replace the retired and dead hunters, participation will drop and with this decline, license sales also wane which in turn reduces necessary funding for wildlife management.

With the proposal to change this rule that will allow for the taking of antlerless deer in those zones where “Any-Deer Permits” are not issued, will it have a measurable impact on efforts to recover a depleted deer herd? In addition, will not allowing youth to take antlerless deer impact recruitment of new hunters?

As far as the new rule proposal goes, we can only make somewhat of an educated guess as to what kind of impact this will have on kids. I would think that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) would have some license sales data that would show what has happened to youth license sales since 2009 when “Any-Deer Permits” were cancelled.

From my own experiences in covering hunting nationwide, historically when major events occur, especially those where hunting opportunity has been significantly reduced, the first year sees a marked decline in license sales but then seems to recover. I don’t know if this same dynamic would apply here but it is something to consider.

Aside from concerns of youth recruitment, the other side of the controversy is whether Maine should be allowing the killing of doe deer in these zones where the deer herd is at or near unsustainable levels. Whether some or any taking of doe deer is problematic depends upon who you talk to. Let’s look at some numbers.

The Youth Day deer harvest is one issue to consider. Bear in mind that the readily available information on the MDIFW website is limited. I only have total youth harvest numbers and am forced to do some of my own calculating based on past histories.

The last year that youth were allowed to take antlerless deer in now restricted zones, was 2008. The youth harvest for that year was 509. Moving on to 2009, the first year of the restriction, the total youth harvest was 330. According to MDIFW this drop was entirely attributed to the restriction of taking antlerless deer in much of the state. Move ahead to 2010 and we see a youth harvest of 440, a 35% increase over the previous year. And then in 2011 that same harvest saw 537 deer taken.

As I said, I don’t have any breakdowns of this harvest. Bear in mind that the harvest numbers comprise all deer that can be legally taken. So, for example, in 2011, of the 537 deer taken by youth, we have no idea how many were adult and of what sex and how many were fawns and of what sex.

While MDIFW attributes the reduction in deer harvest for youth in 2009 on the restriction, I’m not convinced that it was a big a drop for that one reason. One would have to examine how many antlered deer were taken on Youth Day in 2007 and compare that with antlered deer on Youth Day 2009.

Youth hunters aren’t restricted to antlerless deer. If they don’t have the option to take an antlerless deer, those who hunt anyway, while they have a reduced chance of bagging a deer, will change their hunting strategies and probably time in the woods in hopes of bagging an antlered deer.

But all this number crunching isn’t answering the real question of whether or not changing the rule will have a measurable effect. Can we assume that in order to help answer that question, we would need to know just how many doe deer did or would be killed if the rule was changed? So let’s look at 2008 and attempt to make some historical comparisons in order to arrive at a figure that might be usable.

Bear with me as I will have to make a certain number of assumption. 509 deer total were killed on Youth Day in 2008 and 330 in 2009. That’s a total of 179 deer statewide. MDIFW says this number is, “primarily due to the prohibition on taking antlerless deer in bucks only WMDs.”

Not knowing precisely what “primarily” means, then let’s, for the sake of argument, say that in 18 of Maine’s Wildlife Management Districts (WMD), which include all of northern Maine, Downeast and the western mountains, 179 total deer were taken by youth in 2008. Looking at the harvest numbers for 2009, 2010 and 2011, it would appear to me that because total youth harvest numbers continue to climb, the popularity of Youth Day has gone up, and/or the available deer to harvest has increased, among some other things.

Once again for the sake of argument, if total youth harvest statewide has increased since the antlerless restrictions by approximately 38%, then let’s increase that number, 179, by 38% in an attempt to be fair and as realistic as I can. With that, I might be able to project that if youth were still allowed to take antlerless deer in those 18 restricted WMDs, that 179 number would grow to 247 deer – that is if all this were relative and we know they’re not. Stay with me as I don’t think the numbers are so greatly different.

If youth were taking 247 deer on Youth Day in what is now restricted WMDs, what would the harvest data look like? In other words, of those 247 deer, how many would be adult does and adult antlered males and how many would be male and female fawns? We can only guess by making another assumption that perhaps this dynamic would resemble that of the regular statewide harvest; at least to arrive at a usable number.

In 2011, a total statewide deer harvest was 18,839. Approximately 69% of that harvest was antlered bucks, 23% were adult does and 8% were fawns. If we use the same percentages on the 247 deer in my projected harvest by youth, we would see about 170 would be antlered deer, 57 adult does and 20 fawns.

Let’s be realistic. This percentage will be to some degree skewed because hunting conditions vary so greatly throughout the state and youth hunters, I think by nature, tend to take the first and easiest deer they can. Am I wrong?

If that’s the case, then the chances that the youth would not exactly follow statewide trends in the killing of fawns and does, and would probably up those percentages. Would it be realistic to say that 60% of all of the deer that might be taken in these restricted zones were adult does and fawns? Let’s say 150 deer (60% of 247) taken that day would be either an adult doe or a fawn. How do those numbers compare? State average indicates there would be twice as many adult does as fawns. If so, then 100 of those deer would be adult does of breeding age mostly. 50 would be fawns. Historically, birthrates for fawns is roughly 50% male and 50% female.

In my long and drawn out calculations (and I apologize), 125 doe deer would be taken in 18 WMDs. You’ll have to decide whether that is a significant number or not, whether it will limit deer recovery and how much and is it of enough value compared to new hunter recruitment to stick to the current restrictions.

I know that my calculations will get some of you ramping up your own number crunching and I encourage it. However, before you do, let me offer you this bit of information that I got from Lee Kantar back in April of 2008. Lee Kantar is Maine’s lead deer and moose biologist. I had asked Kantar about buck to doe ratios during a series of emails. Here’s what he said in one of those and then I’ll offer some more comment:

Tom,
If you had enough buck hunting pressure (which occurs in other states) that works out to 70-90% annual buck mortality and combine that with little to no doe hunting (combined with good survival, in other words-little to no winter mortality) the most you could skew the sex ratio would be 5 does to 1 buck. IF you met those conditions. In northern Maine, annual mortality on does can be in the mid 20’s and higher. This combined with poor recruitment not only stagnates population growth or causes a decline, but in combination with actual annual buck mortality, it sets up a scenario for buck to doe ratios being between 1.1 adult does to adult bucks to 2 adult does to adult bucks. As we have talked about, does and bucks use habitat differently, forage differently, and those bucks get pretty smart and savvy about using cover.
regards,
Lee

I will not attempt, again here as I have done numerous times, to explain the math of ratios. What I will do is offer what’s on the ground with what Mr. Kantar said for your comparison.

Kantar spoke of 70-90% annual buck mortality. Does northern Maine and other portions with extremely low densities of deer have a buck mortality this high? Some would argue yes! We know that in these restricted zones, there is no doe hunting. The winter survival has been decent the past couple of years in many of these zones and with the exception of two years, pretty good over the past decade or so.

If these conditions exist in Northern Maine, where there is or approaches 70-90% buck mortality, no doe hunting, etc. then a buck to doe ratio might exist that is 1:5 as indicated by Lee Kantar.

I never got one question answered that I had asked. That was, if there was a 1:5 ratio, would all the does get bred? Over the years I have gotten differing opinions on this from scientists. It seems agreeable that with a skewed ratio like this, too many does would get bred late resulting in late fawning, that presents its own set of problems.

And then we are left with that same old argument most of us have also heard from MDIFW that closing hunting would be senseless because a certain percentage of deer are going to die anyway during the winter.

Can we now ask if 125 breeding does, taken by youth, spread out over 18 WMDs, going to stop or harm the deer recovery? Your call.

Tom Remington

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

*Editor’s Note* This article first appeared in the Northwoods Sporting Journal in Maine.

Last February, Maine’s brand new IFW commissioner released “Maine’s Game Plan for Deer”. This article is not about the Plan but instead about the commitment or lack thereof, to implement the plan and resolve the problems of a depleted whitetail deer population.

During the gubernatorial campaign of 2010, then candidate Paul LePage convinced hunters that he was committed to rebuilding the herd. LePage’s selection of Chandler Woodcock as IFW commissioner brought with it the promise that Maine was committed to saving the deer and thus keeping the industry itself part of Maine’s heritage.

If the governor and the commissioner have made this commitment, and some would question even that, where is the engagement in the effort from others?

My work puts me in touch with fish and game issues nationwide. Of late, I have been a party to events taking place in the state of Utah where they are attempting to rebuild a depleting mule deer herd. I read with comparative amazement the vast differences in the devotion to the two causes.

A recent email tells of plans to double the herd from 200,000 to 400,000 in Utah and that effort is “strong” from government and non government agencies alike. I read about the devotion by several in the Utah Legislature to increase deer numbers. I’m told deer recovery in Utah “has a high priority from powerful and influential people in Utah”.

I observe the communication between the governor’s office and that of U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch in conjunction with all sportsman’s groups. In one email exchange, I learned how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, a neighboring state, assisted the contingencies in obtaining millions of dollars for habitat restoration along with predator control, etc.

Through the demands of Utah sportsmen, a study was finally done and paid for that determined the reason for a declining deer herd was a near non existent fawn recruitment. While the fish and game department, only one stakeholder in this statewide investment, dithers, all other efforts are directed at what can be done now, i.e. predator control and into the future habitat restoration and protection.

So, where is Maine’s commitment? What has IFW done? Are there studies that could be done with a commitment of money? Who is finding that money? What has the governor done? When was the last time that senators Snowe and Collins got involved in Maine’s commitment to restore the deer herd? If Sen. Reid can find millions of dollars, can we assume that Snowe and/or Collins could as well? Have all Maine’s hunters and trappers and outdoor sportsman’s groups anted up?

If the commitment is lacking, then perhaps there is also lacking a firm belief in the seriousness of the problem. Or, the belief exists but a poor job of selling and recruiting all influential people stands in the way. Perhaps consideration that inexperience and/or political savvy at many levels within the state presents a river with no means to cross.

Whatever it is, Maine’s effort to save a deer herd and a hunting industry, will fail miserably if there isn’t a stronger commitment at all levels.

It’s time for the Governor, the Commissioner, Sens. Snowe and Collins, Reps. Michaud and Pingree and all sportsmen and their organizations to get serious about the deer herd problem if they believe it is a problem.

Tom Remington

Tom Remington is an independent, well-published writer, researcher, syndicated columnist and public speaker, focusing on hunting, outdoor issues, rights and the environment. Much of his work can be found at his website http://www.tomremington.com

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Dealing With Deer Herd Rebuilding: Maine Sportsmen Groups vs. Utah Sportsmen Groups

Two states that face similar problems with dwindling deer herds are Maine and Utah. In Utah, efforts are underway to improve habitat but the sportsmen there recognize that those efforts are limited. What they do recognize is that the number one problem and one that they CAN do something about is reducing coyote populations that have driven the fawn survival rate to near zero.

In Maine much of the effort is talk and complaining that loss of habitat, loss of quality wintering habitat and severe winters are killing the deer and there are no serious plans to address an overblown coyote population; again something that CAN be done while implementing programs to deal with habitat.

Recently sportsman’s groups in both states have launched efforts to address withering deer herds. In Maine it was announced that a conglomeration of “outdoor partners”, mostly coordinated by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, were going to work with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to address the deer herd issue.

In Utah, efforts are already underway by similar “outdoor partners”, mostly coordinated by the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, to address the deer herd issue.

Below is a comparison of ideas and plans by each of the two groups. Please compare and then decide which one stands the best chance of actually accomplishing the goals of rebuilding a deer herd.

Maine: (According to the statement made by the “outdoor partnership”)

1.) Create a “network” of sportsman’s clubs.
2.) Provide access to information Online.
3.) Host meetings, conferences, and training seminars dealing with habitat management, trapping and predator hunting, and a variety of other topics related to deer restoration and management.
4.) Produce DVDs and other educational materials.
5.) Provide a place where hunters and landowners can share tips, tactics and ideas that may help others succeed at protecting and managing deer.
6.) Support the Maine Deer Management Network at the Legislature and in other political venues.
7.) Provide outreach.
8.) Provide information in the print media by providing feature articles on deer management and outdoor recreation topics.
9.) Coordinate closely with MDIFW to assure mutual progress in restoring and then maintaining healthy deer populations again.
10.) Manage habitat.
11.) Manage predators.
12.) Manage hunting.
13.) Eager to support Dept. efforts to reduce predation losses near deer wintering areas.
14.) Develop coyote hunting into the next big hunting activity in Maine by transitioning the coyote from varmint status, to the valuable, huntable furbearer resource.
15.) Envisioning a volunteer “Adopt a Deer Yard” program targeting coyote hunting near deer wintering areas by individual hunters, or clubs.
16.) Intending to be a resource that individuals can turn to for information on coyote biology, hunting tactics, available equipment, bait sources, etc.
17.) Find opportunities to strengthen the connection between hunters and the non-hunting public and be a resource where hunters can find information on the latest hunting regulations, including legislative changes as they occur.
18.) Stress the importance of ethical hunting behavior, encourage active participation in game law compliance, and help define the importance of hunting and trapping as a means of keeping wildlife populations at compatible levels.

Utah: (According to the most recent email on future plans)

1.) Continue the aerial gunning of coyote pairs in the spring with $470,000. Better efforts will be made to target paired coyotes.

2.) Hire 5 Full time – NON Biologist – Regional coyote trappers/trapping coordinators. Job requirements: proven track record of knowing how to kill coyotes, and teach and motivate thousands of sportsmen to join the effort. Every day, the job is to wake up and kill coyotes, and additionally teach other sportsmen how to trap, snare, and otherwise kill coyotes. These full time people would also coordinate county bounty programs, and help target and measure – hopefully – increased fawn survival. These coordinators will also come up with some new and creative efforts to get sportsmen out killing coyotes.

3.) Have some current DWR Employees participate in coyote control efforts while doing spring and fall counts, etc.

4.) See coyote $1 Million coyote bounty below

Since it is not in the current Governors budget submitted on December 8, the bounty money will have to come from Legislative leaders like Senator Hinkins and Okerlund, who take the Governors budget and tweak it. I also think the Governor, after the meeting in Cache, and having aides see the turnout at other meetings, and realizing the need, will be supportive. So, the new piece of the puzzle? see Number five below:

5.) With the help of Sportsmen, obtain $1 Million in additional funds to pay $50 coyote bounty. This would lead to 20,000 dead coyotes, a DRAMATIC increase in coyote kill.

Let me give you some numbers.

1.) Last year, after seeing the dismal fawn survival on 4 central Utah deer units – Pavant, boulder, beaver – the Director spent an additional $100,000 on coyote control

a.) Fawn Survival from 2010 to 2011 went from approximately 43 fawns per 100 to 62 per 100

It is estimated that there are 80,000 coyotes in Utah.

Last year it is estimated that the government professional trappers took 4,000 coyotes. This program would stay the same, but it would be better targeted in fawning areas.

$1 Million for a $50 bounty would result in 20,000 dead coyotes, plus all the coyotes taken by 5 full time coyote killers from the UDWR, plus all the coyotes taken by aerial gunning $470,000 in the spring on deer winter ranges.

I would like to point out some important differences between these two state’s ideas on how to rebuild a deer population. First, the proposals written about from Utah are actually those made by the fish and game director Jim Karpowitz. From most of the accounts I have read about Utah’s efforts, it appears that for the most part the fish and game department, Legislature, Governor and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, sportsmen and citizens, understand the importance of hunting to their state and are committed at all levels to do what is necessary.

Second, I do not believe that Maine has the same commitment from the fish and wildlife department, the Governor or the Legislature and definitely not the U.S. Congressional Delegation. Sportsmen are split and citizens need to be educated. For this reason, I believe it is the major steering factor in the proposals that I’ve outlined above from Maine.

Governor Paul LePage campaigned on the promise that he was committed to rebuilding Maine’s deer herd. And what has transpired to date that has resulted in any effort to that end? I am not an advocate to fund the MDIFW with general fund taxpayer money. If Maine and the governor honestly are committed to the rebuilding of the deer herd to keep a vibrant industry providing jobs and upholding traditions and heritage, the value of investment would be realized and the Governor and Legislature would find the money to kill a lot of coyotes, reduce bear populations, protect wintering habitat, etc.

I’m not suggesting throwing money at a problem. The Governor must demand change and accountability for any state investment in rebuilding the deer herd. One can argue and spin the information anyway they so choose but the fact is the current management plans for deer failed miserably. Blame it on winter, blame it on habitat or predators, the realization is there are no deer left in many of Maine’s locations. Therefore, the plan fails simply because it doesn’t deal with these issues in a realistic manner. Winters have been around in Maine for longer than MDIFW and loggers have cut trees for centuries, and we still can’t deal with those two issues?

Whether you are from Maine or Utah or points in between, you decide from the information that I’ve provided which state has the biggest commitment to herd rebuilding and which plans have a better chance at seeing real results.

Tom Remington
 

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Disengaged Sportsmen Take a Lesson

When’s the last time you readers, the outdoor sportsmen of this nation, clearly outnumbered all others at a public meeting, a town hall kind of meeting?

In a small town in Northern Utah, a public meeting was held with Governor Gary Herbert to discuss taxes, energy, education, immigration, etc. In attendance were approximately 400 people (see photograph). The report I received from Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife about this meeting said that 360 of those in attendance were hunters who wanted to know of the governor what he plans to do to help them rebuild their depleted deer herd.

That’s what I mean when I say that hunters need to get up out of their seats and get involved in regaining our voice and making the demands to get back what we’ve invested in. Attending a meeting is one way. Joining a hunting club is another.

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Playing the Winning Hand With Always the Appropriate Trump Card in Maine Wildlife Management


Photo Editorial by Richard Paradis

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Maine’s “Game Plan for Deer” Getting Nowhere Fast

Growing up, my father was forever angering me with his platitudes in hopes of proving his point or putting you into a context of uselessness. Growing up poor we spent many hours of many days doing physical work around home, such as firewood, weeding gardens, mowing lawns, etc. I recall sometimes being told to do things I didn’t think possible and my first and repeated reply was, “I can’t”. His scripted retort was always, “Can’t never did anything!”

Is it me and my expectations of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) are too high or has the passage and implementation of the Maine Game Plan for Deer, become a useless instrument supported by “I can’t”?

Some say I’m not fair in my criticism of MDIFW but frankly what criticism is ever considered fair when you are the target of the criticism? Criticism should always be followed by suggested remedies, which I usually try to do.

Maine sportsmen held out hope going into the last election of governor, thinking that an administration change at both the Blaine House and regime change at MDIFW, that resources and attention would shift back toward actual game management, particularly deer, addressing a decades-long downward spiral in the state’s deer population.

When all the changes took place, personnel went to work to draft an official plan to rebuild the deer herd. George Smith, former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and now writer and outdoor/environmental pundit, attended a long meeting with members of the MDIFW to update the progress of the Game Plan for Deer. George files an initial report on the meeting.

I did not attend the meeting so I can only comment on Smith’s perspective of what he took away from the event. In essence, Smith relates that there was little optimism for the future and little had been accomplished and little projected to take place. Perhaps he puts it best when he wrote:

expectations are now high and his [MDIFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock] ability to deliver is low

In reference to the content of the meeting, Smith says: “A lot of time was consumed with a discussion of deer feeding problems, predator controls, and deer/vehicle collisions.”

I’m not sure that I agree, as Smith writes that the number one issue facing a depleted deer herd is habitat, it appears nothing is even being done to address that problem.

But very little time was devoted to habitat protection and enhancement – the key problem and the major reason for the state’s diminished deer population according to the agency’s wildlife staff. Surprisingly little is actually being done on this.

I guess the catch phrase here might as well be, “I can’t!” After reading this assessment, once again my blood pressure spiked and I began breaking pencils and tossing them across my office. One stuck into the screen to the side door. What I sputtered about for the next 20 minutes sort of came out something like this:

It’s all about habitat! I’m so sick and tired about hearing how everything must be blamed on habitat. Well, you know, habitat is important but nobody has ever answered my question about why if there just isn’t any deer wintering areas left there are many acres of deer wintering areas where there are no deer. I could better understand this excuse if the deer herd was near the state’s carrying capacity, but it’s not. And yet, according to George Smith nothing is planned to deal with that so………

We can’t do anything about the weather and MDIFW is not going to do anything about habitat, so………

Then logic would force a sane individual to ask, what CAN we do? Let’s take what we CAN do and prioritize it into what has the biggest negative impact on down to the least and begin there.

So once MDIFW gets done forming more task forces, putting up more signs of deer crossings, paying to fly around and count deer, reduce Any-Deer Permits, shorten the deer season, close it in some areas, raise the license fees, pray for more global warming, take the dog for a walk, go out to lunch, form another task force, walk the dog again, investigate how many deer are being killed by farmers, then perhaps they could get down to predator control or does that have any negative effect at all? Maybe they see coyotes and other predators as positive effects on the deer. I mean take the wolf. They are like the wonder drug, geritol, spandex and lycra, WD-40. I think the presence of wolves cures cancer. Can coyotes be that much different?

And I still haven’t calmed down yet!

I can’t! MDIFW doesn’t have the resources. I can’t! The demands are too high. I can’t! I can’t! I can’t! I can’t!

CAN’T NEVER DID ANYTHING!

Where’s the effort here? Who’s on board with this effort to rebuild Maine’s deer herd? Has the state really made a commitment to rebuild the deer herd? Does Maine honestly see and understand the economic as well as cultural impact the loss of a deer herd and ultimately a hunting season would have on the state?

I have to seriously question that commitment.

Recently I received an email from a gentleman who is head of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife in Utah. I shared that email with a few select recipients on my email list, including the MDIFW Commissioner Chandler Woodcock.

The email was a call to arms for Utah and other sportsmen from the Western regions of the United States, to come together in a united effort to rebuild a depleted mule deer herd. The email begins by clarifying what efforts had been done to date to fix the problem.

While more than 750,000 acres of habitat has been restored, cougar populations have been reduced, and $650,000 a year in coyote control is spent, $50 Million has been invested to fence highways with underpass crossings, still not enough has been done. It is the feeling that 80% of Utah’s deer herds are still in decline, and only 20% or so are doing well.

How many acres of this much needed habitat restoration has been done in Maine? Oh, that’s right. I can’t. What concerted efforts are underway in Maine to reduce predators, including black bears, bobcats and coyotes, even if only temporarily until the herd rebuilds? Oh, that’s right. I can’t. How much money has been put toward coyote control in Maine? Oh, that’s right. I can’t. How much has been invested in other projects around the state to protect and build the deer herd? Oh, that’s right. I can’t.

WE already know Senator Hatch has helped get tens of millions in habitat restoration money, personally toured Habitat restoration areas, won the wolf war for sportsmen etc.

In Maine, it appears the Governor has promised to do everything he can do, but when was the last time Sen. Snowe, Sen. Collins, Rep. Michaud, Rep. Pingree attended one of any meetings on the issue of rebuilding Maine’s deer herd? Or toured any deer yard? Oh, that’s right. I can’t. How about the last time one of these elected officials sent a key staff member to assist? Oh, that’s right. I can’t. When was the last United States senator or representative who “helped gets tens of millions” to help do anything with wildlife management in Maine? Oh, that’s right. I can’t.

As was written about in this email, there is an election coming up again next November. Maine sportsmen should be looking at every candidate and demanding that they have an agenda to actually do everything they can to save Maine’s deer herd or they won’t get your vote.

The overall effort here is just coming across as pathetic. Certainly there are pockets of positive accomplishes and isolated individuals doing what they can, but Maine’s overall effort is poor. The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, once the backbone of lobbying for the sportsmen is in disarray with a sinking membership and disunity among those members still hanging on. Perhaps David Trahan can right the ship. It is imperative for Maine’s future for sportsmen. The governor makes promises to “do what he can” but is he? Isn’t it time to rattle the cages of the 4 Congressional delegates and tell them it’s time for them to get involved. If Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah can “find” millions of dollars to help with restoring habitat and mule deer there, isn’t it reasonable to expect the same might be available somewhere for Maine?

Can’t never did anything. As long as the current administration in Augusta insists that there’s nothing they can do or they are doing all they can, what hope is there? To exclaim that “expectations are now high and his ability to deliver is low” is a loser attitude. There is no room for this when a state is faced with such a serious problem. But, then again, maybe the real problem is that those in high places don’t really view a lost Maine deer herd as a serious problem or even a small problem.

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.

Maybe David Trahan, if he were to successfully pull all this together in a united and powerful force to reckon with, this would, at the same time, resolve the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine’s membership problems. Just a thought! Let me know when you are ready to fight.

Tom Remington

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