October 20, 2020

Maine Big Game Harvests: One Excuse is as Good as Another

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The opening line in a Portland Press Herald news article says that Maine’s bear, turkey, and deer harvests were all down from last year, “but on par with wildlife biologist’s expectations.” This was followed by all the “usual suspect” excuses, including Climate Change, however, referred to as “extreme weather.”

This prompts me, one more time, to retell the story of the man who wanted to borrow his neighbor’s ax. The neighbor said, “No, you can’t. It’s Tuesday.” The man asked what Tuesday had to do with borrowing his ax and the neighbor answered, “Nothing. But if I don’t want you to borrow my ax, one excuse is as good as another.”

Excuses! Excuses!. And how about a little bit of honesty in reporting? The article states that Maine’s biologists expected deer harvest numbers to be down because, “…the state issued fewer “Any-Deer Permits.” What’s not reported is what the comparative “Any-Deer Permit” harvest was with last year. The reality is that regardless of the number of “Any-Deer Permits” issued it may not have had much influence on the overall deer harvest. One of the last reports we received from MDIFW was that they were not achieving the desired doe harvest rates from the issuance of “Any-Deer Permits.”

While the article mentions that more “bonus deer permits were handed out,” we haven’t a clue as to how this offset the reduction in “Any-Deer Permits” or the resulting harvest. Hocus-pocus – smoke and mirrors.

I have a stinking suspicion that once all data is collected and an honest assessment of that data is examined, we’ll find out what some of us already know – the deer herd, with the exception of a couple of Wildlife Management Districts in the central part of the state, is poor with little effort being taken to do anything about it.

With the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) announcing their intentions to manage deer for “health” rather than spend time counting (somehow the two are not related?), I would suspect the herd population to continue to shrink, along with interest in deer hunting. After all, who wants to spend money and effort beating the forest for deer, when the odds of success at bagging a deer continue to shrink? And we wonder why license sales continue to drop?

Turkey and bear harvest numbers were abysmal and still MDIFW and the Maine Legislature continue to tread water doing nothing about what has become a nuisance flock of wild turkeys and a potentially dangerous swarm of black bears. With all these bears, we should be thankful it was a bountiful mast crop. Tens of thousands of hungry bears can spell disaster.

We are at a point where serious changes need to be made with both turkey and bear hunting bag limits and/or lengths of season. Dithering continues to rule the day, I suppose operating in fear that “social demands” won’t tolerate more bears and turkeys being killed.

Here’s a suggestion. MDIFW should cease with the “social demands” pandering, along with letting the guides and outfitters tell them how to run their hunting seasons and bag limits, and do what is best for game management. But I realize those days are long gone, therefore we should expect more of the same, and “one excuse is as good as another” when it comes to explaining game harvest numbers.

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