April 2, 2023

There’s More To Managing Game Than Technology

David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, writes a very interesting and compelling article that is published in the Kennebec Journal and is found at CentralMaine.com.

In his article he suggests how the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) can use their new technology of digital tagging of game to better manage turkeys. He brings out many good points, explaining that the management of wild turkeys is mostly a best-guess monstrosity of hoping and wishing. “IF&W describes their turkey management goals as very conservative and based on best-guess population estimates.”

“As these population attributes are being refined, it is time for the department to develop a more flexible and adaptive harvest management system for wild turkeys.”

What Trahan is proactively suggesting is that there are far more turkeys that are suffering and dying from disease and starvation each year that instead of going to waste should be made available for resource harvest and utilization. In other words, it’s time to increase the bag limits and lengths of season to accomplish this task and that MDIFW can use the “technology” to accurately monitor the harvest of turkeys in Wildlife Management Districts (WMD) and close the season when harvest goals have been reached. This is common sense game management…that is when managers have a better than “best-guess management goals.”

Trahan writes: “With the new tagging technology and the department’s long-established wildlife management units, IF&W should be able to heavily crop over-abundant populations while also protecting others. And they can monitor the progress of turkey harvests on a daily basis, if they so desire.”

He also suggests the following management model: “In practice, IF&W would issue fall turkey tags based on harvest quotas for each district. Hunters would be capped at eight birds a year — two male birds in the spring and six turkeys of either sex in the fall. There would also be a provision for the department to exceed this individual limit if it were not achieving adequate harvesting rates.”

The only question I might have is are there enough turkey hunters, even with the new bag limits, to accomplish the goals of responsible turkey management.?

I had one reader answer my question this way: “Maybe you don’t need as many hunters if the bag limit is increased.  A greater bag limit may increase the number of hunters both residents and non-residents, Also – manage it like the special deer hunt – after ya got your deer you can go get another deer permit.”

Maybe. Maybe not! However, the management model suggested would be difficult to abuse and end up with terrible results that might be a danger to the turkeys themselves. If MDIFW was closely monitoring the harvest of turkeys in all the WMDs, keeping a close eye on harvest goals per WMD, along with the legal flexibility to modify seasons and bag limits as necessary to remain within practical, and sensible, scientific turkey management, what could go wrong?

Thank you David and SAM’s suggestions for improving on Maine’s turkey management and harvest goals.

Surely something positive must be done.


A Bill Proposal to Eliminate a Turkey Permit Fee

Evidently turkey hunting in Maine is a dead duck. Or maybe it’s too expensive. Maybe having to travel as many as 30 miles to be a law-abiding citizen to register your turkey, is prohibitive. Maybe I should have called it something other than a dead duck. There’s a proposed bill that will eliminate the permit and tagging fees, increase bag limits and allow Online and telephone tagging.

Maybe those agog about more and easier turkey killing should keep in mind that in a few more years the only hunting left in Maine might be turkeys and bears and replacing deer and moose will be wild hogs and opossum. What puzzles me though is that deer can’t grow in northern and western Maine because deer are “at the northern fringe of their habitat, but I guess New Brunswick is south of Maine? And moose are dying because of global warming, causing ticks that kill moose. So, the confusing part is that if the climate is warming, then the “northern fringe” of the deer habit should be moving to the north, allowing more deer to flourish and moose will eventually not be found in Maine’s warm climate. Right? Let’s adjust those mirrors and apply smoke in different places to see if we can remove all doubt.

But I don’t want to get off the subject. According to reports there were only 16,000 licensed turkey hunters last year in Maine. At $20 a pop that’s $320,000 dollars in revenue for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). One might think (rationally) that with 200,000 deer hunters more than 16,000 would want to turkey hunt and that would mean more from the cash cow to fatten up the coffers. Rational thinking belongs with the wild hogs.

In one article I read, MDIFW Commissioner Woodcock told the Joint Standing Committee he didn’t want to lose that turkey hunting license revenue, if the proposal passed to eliminate the license fees. If they lose the revenue, is the incentive gone to do anything about growing more turkey hunters, or even managing turkeys at all? If it’s not a “game species” anymore, what is it? Wild hog hunting is sounding better all the time.

Maine’s Wildlife Division Director said, “The Department is opposed to this bill because it does not allow us to manage Maine’s wild turkey population based on biological principles and sound science.” Really?

So let’s see. One report says that too many turkeys have cost one apple farmer $250,000 in damages a year. That’s no small potatoes apples! But, all we hear about is that MDIFW must consider the social demands and toleration levels before they can make decisions. What to do, what to do? Too bad that apple farmers are a minority group. Maybe he should team up with the Humane Society of the United States. There is a member on one of MDIFW’s boards helping to make decisions – based, of course, on social demands. No, wait. That’s right. She wants to stop all hunting…along with human existence. Looks like the apple farmer is all out of luck. She might even insist apple growing stop due to the rights of worms and maggots.

And, we can’t disregard the honey-hole of information created in the recent survey that will justify just about any issue with MDIFW. “overall Maine’s public is very satisfied with the management and population levels of Maine’s Big Game species.” But what about turkeys? Time to begin some education seminars on how to effectively hunt wild pigs. I’d suggest someone start up a helicopter service for shooting pigs but Maine doesn’t have many open fields like Texas.

In the latest report to the Maine Legislature about the status of deer management in Maine, the report is a doozie! We read several times similar claims to self-importance, “95% of landowners rated the Department’s ability to manage deer as fair to excellent.” WOW! That’s a big number. But look closer. This statement could just as easily have read, “100% of landowners rated the Department’s ability to manage deer (turkeys) as piss poor to excellent. Fair is but one notch above piss-poor.

Smoke and Mirrors it appears.

But then one, or at least a whiner like me, has to ask if MDIFW really gives two rats’ stomach tumors about how many turkeys there are, or are they more interested in just the money? After all, the turkey harvest results for the Spring and Fall 2016 hunts haven’t been published on the website yet….or deer…or bear….or moose. Alas! So busy “managing” turkeys?

We may need to protect the turkey for the only remaining “Big Game” hunt for Maine. Supplement that with an extended season on coyotes and wild pigs and Maine’s hunters will be sitting in fat city.

America is great again?