July 14, 2020

Maine: Hunting Ethics and Hunting in Deer Yards

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I read a very good article this morning written by Maine’s outdoor writer Bob Humphrey about issues with deer hunters being able to hunt deer in deer wintering habitat.

Often, as Mr. Humphrey points out, deer do not journey to their wintering areas until after the deer hunting season. In some cases, where winter seems to come early (where’s that Global Warming?), deer have begun to congregate in the yards before the end of the season, especially during the late-season muzzleloader hunt.

I have written about the effects of the late-season muzzleloader hunt, which appears to fall on mostly deaf ears. This article does not address the real concern with late hunts, regardless of whether those late hunts involve an early yarding up of deer.

It is accurate that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) manipulates seasons, bag limits, issuance of permits, etc. to control the deer population in Wildlife Management Districts (WMD). What is not known, because it is never discussed, is whether, in that consideration of manipulation tactics, the idea of deer harassment, which can cause a higher degree of mortality, is actually considered.

Even when winter doesn’t come early, the late-season muzzleloader hunt, causes added stress to an already stressed and weakened buck herd. The annual rut (mating season) has mostly concluded (there may be still some activity in some areas) by the end of the regular rifle season in most of Maine. The bucks can be quite worn out, having burned up stored fat supplies due to excessive “rutting” habits. With reduced fat supplies, bucks become vulnerable to the effects of severe winters.

If the deer have moved into yards early, that means conditions are such that harassment of any deer in a winter yard, places possible detrimental effects on any deer, especially a tired out buck who has been performing his duties.

When people begin discussing hunting ethics, attempting to link ethics to a decision as to whether or not certain hunting tactics should be legal or not, the discussion becomes a pitting of one person’s perspective against another. When the state makes laws prohibiting certain hunting tactics, it is no longer a matter of hunting ethics but that of legal ethics.

If the law allows hunting in deer wintering areas, whether a hunter chooses to hunt there should be decided by that individual’s preferences and perspectives. One would only hope that the deer managers are considering the mortality rates that can be attributed to late-season hunting in deer yards that is caused by the continued hunter effort and harassment, regardless of the degree of harassment.

Share