January 28, 2023

Grouse Study Offers Severe Winter Excuse for Managers

In V. Paul Reynolds’ weekly article, he shares with his readers about the ups and downs of this year’s grouse hunting, mentioning a grouse study that is, “A newly launched ongoing grouse study, that is a year old… A collaborative effort by the University of Maine and DIF&W [Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife].”

According to what Reynolds shared, the study concluded, among other things, that:

This grouse study is also looking at a grouse’s favorite cover, the relationship between vegetation and habitat selection. The study also confirmed longtime popular conjecture that, despite a grouse’s incredible resilience, hard Maine winter’s kill grouse just like they do deer.

It’s never an encouraging thing to discover that another “study” provides an easy excuse for wildlife managers to call out the “Severe Winter” card when there are no more game animals to hunt. What I expected to read about also was how, global warming AND severe winters, kill grouse…JUST LIKE THEY DO DEER.


Tagging Maine’s Ruffed Grouse

It appears from all indications that very few people are aware of, “An Act to Strengthen Maine’s Wildlife Laws.” It is even more concerning that even fewer people have been made aware of Sec. 11. 12 MRSA §11857 of that act, entitled, “Unlawful possession of ruffed grouse.”

Here is that section only but I would advice hunters to check out everything within “The Act.”

Sec. 11. 12 MRSA §11857 is enacted to read:

§ 11857. Unlawful possession of ruffed grouse
1. Daily bag limit. A person may not take more than the daily bag limit of ruffed grouse during any open season on ruffed grouse as established by the commissioner.
2. Possession limit. A person may not possess more than the possession limit of ruffed grouse taken during any open season on ruffed grouse as established by the commissioner.
3. Duty to label ruffed grouse. A person shall label any ruffed grouse that the person has taken, before the next calendar day begins, with the name of the person who harvested the ruffed grouse and the date it was taken if that person is within or travelling through the unorganized territory.
4. Penalty. A person who violates this section commits a Class E crime for which a fine of not less than $100 plus $25 for each ruffed grouse taken in violation may be adjudged.

So, if you are a partridge hunter, better take along some paper and pen and something to attach a tag to a bird if you plan on hunting in or traveling through Maine’s “Unorganized Territories.”

I’m sure there is a reason for such a law, where there has never been one before, but it kind of smells a bit like one of those “I gotcha!” laws.


Drumming Patridge (Grouse)

This video, captured with a game video camera, was sent to me by a reader from Maine. He reports that this guy sat on this maple log behind his house for just over 3 hours flapping his wings. I sure hope he found what he was looking for.


Lee Kantar: “Talk of a Declining Deer Herd is Old News”

I have used as an analogy many times over the years a story of my nephew, when at the age of perhaps 4 years, got me to laughing. I was visiting my brother one day and when I arrived he was struggling to get his son to eat his lunch. My brother and I retired to the living but only after he had told his son that he was to stay in the kitchen and eat his lunch and only then could he be free to play.

After about 5 minutes, my nephew walked into the living room and said to his dad, “Dad, I ate all my lunch….but don’t go look!”

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) deer biologist, Lee Kantar, told Mark Latti in an interview published in the Portland Press Herald yesterday, that concerning the state’s whitetail deer population, “(It’s) 150,000-200,000, but things are definitely towards the higher end (and) talk of a ‘declining’ deer herd is old news. We are trending up.”


There are two issues worth discussing here. First, it is easy to say that the number of deer in Maine is “trending up” when there really is no other direction to go in. And from that perspective one could not be talking of a continuing decline in the population. However, calling it old news is pushing it just a bit. Sportsmen still want answers and action.

Secondly, Latti’s column is about game population estimates. He writes about black bears, turkey, woodcock, moose and grouse. According to what is written in the article, Maine has 31,000 black bears, 60,000 turkeys and 76,000 moose. The deer population is somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 but Kantar believes the actual number to be more towards the 200,000.

Why isn’t there a specific number for the deer? Maine announced it was going to spend $100,000 to aerial survey the whitetail deer population and while they were at it would do some moose counting as well. So, where’s the results of the deer count?

It seems it didn’t take very long to whip out a number for moose, being that everyone was making comments about how many there were and perhaps so many that the winter tick infestation is very high. Has all the complaining and grumbling about the deer herd scared the biologists away from publishing a more exact count of deer or are they trying to hide from sportsmen something?

They flew with helicopters to count moose and have determined there are 76,000 of them. They flew with helicopters to count deer and have determined that there are somewhere between 150,000 and 200,000 deer and maybe it’s closer to 200,000. Or maybe there’s 50,000 or 350,000? Why don’t we know?

If the deer population in Maine is trending upwards, which I believe it is in places, it comes as the result of nothing MDIFW has done. The article linked to attributes the increases to, “After severe winters in 2008 and ’09, Maine’s deer herd was blessed with a relatively short winter in 2010, and then two mild winters in 2011 and ’12.” Lee Kantar takes credit for helping that increase by reducing the number of “Any-Deer” permits for a couple of years. This probably did help grow the population in zones where the herd isn’t in serious danger. In those zones where deer are in the most threat, there are no “Any-Deer” permits issued.

I would think that if MDIFW can state that there are 76,000 moose, then I think they can do a better job of informing sportsmen of what the real deer population is rather than a +/- 25% guess.