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.


Maine Hunting Camp: Why Bother?

As each year passes, I continue to ask myself, why bother? Why bother to go? There are very few deer, as has been the case for going on two decades now and nothing is changing in the woods…nothing.

I just completed my 40th year at a Maine hunting camp – the same family hunting camp I have written about for many years. I saw nothing – Okay, I saw three partridge and a woodpecker on my camp bird feeder.

This morning I was reading The Gun Nut at Field and Stream. He had been in Wyoming on a whitetail deer hunt where he took a 12-point, 200-pound buck. He writes, “At the moment I pulled the trigger, there were six other bucks in the field.”

Then he wrote, “Then I went to Maine, and spent 5 ½ days in an elevated stand waiting for a whitetail. I was in the stand from 5:45 until 4:30, and the only thing I saw the whole time was a coyote, whose furtive existence I terminated. Our party was 15 people more or less, ten of whom are geezers like myself and have 50 years or so of whitetail battles in their past, so when they don’t see deer, it means there are no deer.”

For 40 years I’ve hunted the same lands and have seen it all. Excuses be damned…there just aren’t any deer and I hold out little hope that by doing nothing except wishing and hoping, anything is going to change.

The poor excuses are old to me and worthless. Putting it all together, we see that it appears deer managers don’t know what’s really going on and with each passing year, I am left wondering if they really care. Maybe they care about pensions and benefits, but the excuse making is so poor, some of us have discovered that the managers tell it both ways. Here’s a bold and ridiculous example of what I mean.

The moose population is shrinking. Even though the moose managers keep echoing the fact that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is in the middle of a multi-year moose study, we know they recognize a dwindling moose herd because they keep cutting back the number of moose permits to be issued during the lottery.

The convenient cover for poor management is winter ticks, which they hide behind by saying the increase in winter ticks is caused by (and we don’t even have to wait for it anymore) climate change. To be specific, the climate change in question happens to be warming. Wildlife managers, evidently without so much as a courtesy glance at any existing science on Demacentor albipictus (winter tick), it’s easier to copy and paste, and/or repeat, what the last guy said.

So, now, we are all supposed to fall to our knees and self-flagellate as a show of mourning for the moose and eagerly swallow the explanation of what is happening to the moose. I believe! I believe! Are you going to pass the offering plate?

Even if we pretend that a warming climate is to blame for the winter tick-caused mortality of moose, what about the whitetail deer?

Of course, all of us must realize that habitat is always a safe bet when a deer or moose manager needs to cover their assets, even though no explanation can be given as to why, if loss of habitat accounts so dearly to deer loss, there’s acres and acres of prime deer habitat where there are no deer. One would think that as habitat supposedly disappears, more and more deer would be crowded into smaller and smaller places. Such is not the case. The woods are empty…PERIOD.

If you haven’t figured out yet where I’m going here, it’s time I told you. Deer managers tell us that there are no deer because of back to back severe winters. That was like 7 or 8 years ago. Without even discussing what constitute a “severe winter,” I don’t even need a brain to figure out that if severe winters are killing off all the deer, then how can, at the same time, on the same landscape, from the same officials, they tell us warmer than normal winters are what’s causing winter ticks that kill moose? Where did you say that bridge was you wanted to sell me?

I laugh until I nearly fall out of my chair, when I hear of some calling for the State of Maine to spend gobs of money they don’t have, in order to market Maine as a destination hunting mecca. This has to be someone’s idea of a bad joke. Because I grew up in Maine and lived there for 47 years, still have a camp there and have gone to the same deer hunting camp for 40 years, I go back each Fall. Each year it’s harder and harder to justify spending the $116.00 for a piece of paper that gives me the privilege of walking in the woods. Without the connections, I would not go. I would not spend $50.00 or $20.00 to travel the 1700 miles to deer hunt in Maine.

Deer hunting in Maine is the biggest draw the state has for hunters. When they lose that, a lot of people and animals will suffer. If MDIFW actually cares about saving the species and the sport, which equals a sizable income to them and the rest of the state, something must change. MDIFW cannot continue to be dictated to by the Maine Guides. Bear play a prominent roll in killing deer. There are too many bears and yet, because the guides don’t want anybody messing with their bear guiding business during the early Fall hunt, managers refuse to implement a spring bear hunt or even to double-up on bag limits.

When you combine this kind of approach to wildlife management with fear of lawsuits from animal rights perverts, there is little hope of anything changing. We see how MDIFW caves in to the public demands to have more moose to view from automobiles. When the day arrived that game managers put more emphasis on social demands than scientific fact, failure was eminent. We are now reaping that harvest.

Maine deer hunting? Why bother?


Winter Takes Toll On New England Deer Population

Officials are considering whether to cut deer hunting permits after a rough winter in New England.
Source: Winter Takes Toll On New England Deer Population


How Many Deer Die When Snows Are Deep? Or Maybe the Stories Are Deep

deerdeepsnowProbably a day doesn’t pass when weather “phenomenon” creates long discussions about big snowstorms, bad winters, hot summers, etc. And with the telling of each story the snow gets deeper, the winters colder and longer and summers so hot eggs were commonly fried on the sidewalk (who would really eat eggs cooked on the sidewalk?”

First and foremost, let’s not kid ourselves. Long and severe (subjective) winters, combined with other factors can raise hell with a deer herd. Many states have what they call a “Winter Severity Index”(WSI) and this index is not universal, therefore it adds more subjectivity and perspective to the actual events. Mind you, none of this changes the reality on the ground and deer die.

A WSI is determined by depth of snow, degree of cold and its persistence and the length of time such “severe” conditions persist. Generally speaking the longer a winter persist will probably have the most devastation. But there are other factors to consider and some of these circumstances are not calculated into the WSI.

For example, is there a predator factor? Often times deer will not survive a winter due to the onslaught of predators, like coyotes, wolves, bobcats, mountain lions and the mortality increase with the severity of the weather. What are the recorded conditions of the snow that would enable predators and deter prey? Is there a disease calculation? If deer are suffering from disease, surely it contributes to the mortality rate and ability to survive. What is the availability of habitat, including the browse available for deer to survive? We should also factor in human harassment, which I would lump in with domestic dogs chasing deer and, snowmobilers, shed hunters, etc.

As you can see it’s complex and yet doubtful that most people consider these things when they read media accounts that ask, “Will Winter Wipe Out Our Deer Herd?”

Deer are a remarkable animal and personally I don’t think people give this creature enough credit for its adaptability to changing conditions – man-caused and natural.

So, what’s this all leading up to? Thanks to a friend who sent me just about everything that is linked to in this article, we might be witness to a condition that is common where one piece of historic information is written and many after the fact repeat it.

I must repeat here again that I don’t know that my claim to historic repetition is true or not. I’m making an example of something readers might consider. And I certainly do not intend to diminish the reality that the conditions I’ve stated above, when in play, kill a lot of deer.

In Google Books, we find a book written by Sidney Perley and published in 1891. The title is “Historic Storms of New England“, Salem Press Publishing and Printing.

The Outdoor Life article references this year’s winter snow depths and severity for the New England Region. In a subsequent email I received a link to an article discussing The Great Snow of 1717 in which over a prolonged period at the end of February and into March of 1717, 5 feet of snow fell on New York and New England regions, making the claim that, “…95 percent of all the deer in many parts of New England died during or after this storm.” I doubted the claim.

The Mother Nature Network cited Wikipedia as the source of this information. For those of you who have followed my writings, should have by now, figured out I’m not a huge fan of Wikipedia to find sound, accurate and reliable information. That doesn’t mean I don’t use it. I use it for simple references. For issues that require lots of research, I might use it as a starting point. Wikipedia is a good resource providing users understand its reliability and purpose.

If readers take the time to examine the Wikipedia information, they will discover that some of the information used for this page came from, you guessed it, the book I referenced above by Sidney Perley. So, I think we can say that here we have a case, at least to some degree, of repeating one person’s “historic” account. (Note: The Wikipedia page does include other citations. Please don’t think I’m suggesting it was the only source.)

So let’s look at Sidney Perley’s historic account of what was going on during the Winter of 1716-1717. Perley writes, beginning on Page 33:

Many cattle were buried in the snow, where they were smothered or starved to death. Some were found dead weeks after the snow had melted, yet standing and with all the appearance of life. The eyes of many were so glazed with ice that being near the sea they wandered into the water and were drowned.

The author goes on to tell about wild animals stating that the deep snows caused the animals to be “robbed of their means of subsistence” and they starved. In addition he says the deer seemed to move nearer to the coast hoping to find some food.

But it wasn’t just starvation killing the deer. The author writes:

Bears and wolves were numerous then, and as soon as night fell, in their ravenous state they followed the deer in droves into the clearings, at length pouncing upon them.

Getting back to the domestic animals, the author states:

Bears, wolves and foxes were nightly visitors to the sheep pens of the farmers.

Unless things were different back in 1717, bears probably were not up waiting for night to fall so they could visit the sheep pens, nor were they following deer into the clearings and “at length pouncing on them”. Bear hibernate.

Now, it’s possible that bears can come out of hibernation early if, the spring comes early. We hear of this event quite often. However, upon reading further we discover that the winter began difficult and remained that way culminating in this multi-day snow event that dumped 5 feet of snow in some areas.

I would also like to point out the difficulty I am having with the statement Perley made where he said, “Some were found dead weeks after the snow had melted, yet standing and with all the appearance of life. The eyes of many were so glazed with ice that being near the sea they wandered into the water and were drowned.” This is bordering a bit toward tall tales and damned lies.

I know that my grandfather walked to school 15 miles, uphill (both ways) through all kinds of weather and that today we have all become soft cry babies. However, I was of the ripe old age of 16 and living in Maine, when record snowfall occurred in much of Maine and New England. I think that record snowfall must mean that it surpassed the snows of the Winter of 1716-1717…but then again bears didn’t hibernate in 1717, so it’s difficult to say.

The take away here is that for me, I see this as a teaching moment. I love history and I read it often. In my latest book, “Wolf: What’s to Misunderstand?” I include lots of historic accounts and went out of my way to include some that most readers would find as tall tales and damned lies. There’s some truth in there somewhere.

Through this teaching moment about historic accounts, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact of what nature can bestow upon us, our domestic animals and wildlife. It can be harsh. But sometimes the embellishing of reality makes for great entertainment. The chore becomes to separate fact from fiction within a document.

I am extremely grateful to my good friend for sending me this information. I read and enjoyed every bit of it and put it all in what I think is a sound perspective for myself.


Wisconsin: Seven Years to Go From 2 Million Deer to Ending Antlerless Hunting

Weather and severe winters seem to be wreaking some havoc for white-tailed deer in some northern tier of states and it appears Wisconsin took its share of devastation. Sometimes finding blame for poor management in weather or global warming, is a growing trend.

Less than seven years ago, Wisconsin was in the middle of a program called “Earn-a-Buck” where hunters, before they could legally harvest an antlered deer, had to take a doe deer first. This was an effort, officials said, to reduce a deer population that was close to 2 million estimated statewide.

In 2006 Wisconsin officials were begging hunters to shoot more does to reduce the deer population.

Today, we read that Wisconsin has lost so many deer in at least 17 of their northern counties, they are planning to end all harvesting of doe (antlerless) deer. According to the linked-to article, the cause is being blamed on back-to-back severe winters.


Winter Ticks in Moose Documented Since 1930s

The headline above is essentially the statement made by Maine’s head moose biologist Lee Kantar. Specifically he said, “Winter ticks have been documented in Maine since the 1930s. Periodically, there are peak years when the number of ticks increase substantially.”

In a weekly column in the Sun Journal by outdoor writer V. Paul Reynolds, he states that: “Biologists reported from tagging station information last fall that the tick count on harvested moose was the highest in ten years!”

Isn’t then the logical progression of questions to be asked as follows?

1. If winter moose ticks have been “documented” since the 1930s has there also been “documented” complications similar to those that are now supposedly killing Maine’s moose?

2. If we have been utilizing a moose hunting season, if only by lottery in limited numbers, to assist with the management of moose populations since 1980 when 700 moose permits were issued, during the past 33 years has MDIFW “documented” any irregularities in moose populations due to the winter tick?

3. Can we assume that checking for and “documenting” winter ticks on moose has taken place at tagging stations since Maine’s first modern-day moose hunt in 1980?

4. If, as stated above, the tick count on moose reported at tagging stations this year, was the highest in ten years, then there must have been higher tick counts prior to 2003?

5. If there have been higher tick counts on moose “documented” since 1980, what then was the result of moose mortality estimations during those times?

6. We know that so-called “scientists” during the 1970s were attempting to find ways of scamming money out of taxpayers by claiming that the world was going to freeze to death because of global cooling. That didn’t work so the same and other so-called “scientists” tried scaring people with global warming. If winter ticks have been “documented” since the 1930s and according to so-called “scientists” we have gone through a global cooling period, a global warming period, and are now entering into another global cooling period, how then can so-called scientists, wildlife biologists, environmentalists and all the other “ists” claim that global warming is the cause of increased numbers of winter ticks? Especially if we surmise that there must have been higher tick counts prior to the past ten years.

Without spending a great deal of time plotting data and thoroughly examining reports such as Lee Kantar’s 2006 report Status of the Maine Deer Herd and William Krohn’s Historical Ecology of the White-tailed Deer in Maine, it appears as though there may be a correlation between high tick counts followed the next year by a severe winter. I believe the last event similar to this year may have happened in 2002-2003. Of course if this is true, then one might be able to blow the global warming, winter tick correlation out of the water; which wouldn’t be a bad idea as I personally believe the global warming attribution to everything under the sun, pun intended, is nothing more than a poor distraction that wrongfully disrupts real and good scientific study.

One would also have to wonder if and what the similarities are in moose populations in New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota and Canada. It may be as simple as a natural event of warm, cold, ticks, moose and when there’s too many of some or all, things happen. Nature isn’t in balance. It’s a dynamic and changing existence – and with all of this, we must include the changing dynamics of the effects of predators.


Maine Official Says Moose Population Holding Steady, BUT……..

According to a report found on WCSH-TV website, Lee Kantar, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife moose biologist, says he believes the moose population is holding steady in Maine, even though 13 of the 60 cow and calf moose collared this year for a moose study have died.

Personally, I would have a difficult time being so optimistic as I believe that to be an unusually high mortality rate. However, Kantar seems to pass it off as the result of a severe winter and winter ticks.

However, I find one statement in this report disturbing.

Biologist Lee Kanter is heading up the program in Maine. His study is ongoing, but he suspects it will reveal a higher than average mortality rate among calves. Adult moose will continue to reproduce so Kanter believes we’ll see just a blip in the population.

The problem with this statement is it fails to state the not so obvious to most people; that even though adult moose will continue to reproduce, there will be fewer of them to do that. Recruitment is a term used to describe the number or percentage of new-born moose that survive their first winter. For a herd to “hold steady” it means that recruitment must at least equal the loss of adult reproducing moose.

If a recruitment rate is smaller than adult moose loss over a sustained period of time, the herd will continue to be decimated. It appears Kantar is betting on an easing of severe winters and his claim that ticks will fall off moose into deep snow and die, will lessen the effects of ticks next winter.

It would have been helpful if Mr. Kantar, or the person filing the report, had been more forthcoming on why Kantar suspects the mortality on calves to be “higher than average.”


Where Maine Had Thousands of Deer Now Only a Few

Hal Blood recalls how he used to snowmobile at the north end of Moosehead Lake and see deer by the thousands. Now he sees only a few hundred.

And where Blood, a registered Maine Guide, ice fishes on state conservation land near Jackman at the northwestern corner of Maine, the deer are simply gone, he said.

“I used to see deer lying up in the ridges. That whole Moose River valley 25 years ago was unbelievable. But there aren’t any deer there any more,” Blood said.<<<Read More>>>


Maine’s Deer Management Based on Global Warming?

Recently the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has been attempting to, what appears to be, set the stage for a future announcement of a deer herd that got whacked pretty hard this winter. Several media outlets and outdoor writers have taken a turn at helping to explain just how bad the winter has been. The latest of these attempts is from Terry Karkos of the Sun Journal.

Perhaps as telling as anything in this article is the very last sentence: “The deer population has been rebounding since then due to warmer winters.” (“since” meaning rebounding from the back to back severe winters of 2008 and 2009.) While this is not presented in the article as being a quote from anyone at MDIFW, it may be one of the reasons that nothing has been done since 2008 and 2009 to mitigate the losses when the next severe winter hits….which is now. (This is where everyone in unison says, “But there’s nothing we can do about the weather, and, and, and there’s no habitat.”)

Evidently I am not the only one who sees that the only reason that the deer herd was able to “rebound” from 2008 and 2009 is because of a handful of relatively mild winters, affectionately and conveniently described as “global warming.”

Karkos, provides information others have not. He states that MDIFW claims that before the start of the 2013 deer hunting season there where a guesstimate of 203,000 deer statewide. Prior to the start of the deer season, Kyle Ravana, the new deer guru, estimated a harvest of nearly 26,000 deer. We have no idea what the harvest was that ended last December as it seems Maine is the only state that takes 4 or 5 or 6 or whatever, months to count and do simple math.

If hunters took anywhere near the 26,000 deer, that would have left about 177,000 deer. The article states that Ravana is estimating a 12% winter kill. That leaves less than 156,000 deer. It seems to me that I recall the deer management plan that is due to expire this year, called from building the total state deer herd to around 325,000 animals. Oooooops!

I guess about all we can say about this is damn that loss of habitat and where is Al Gore when you really need him?