August 6, 2020

Maine Deer Harvest Dismal – Why Are Sportsmen Happy With Management

Over the weekend I received a Maine map that showed the deer harvest for the 2015 Maine deer hunting season. As I write this morning, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) has not posted the harvest data on their website for public viewing.

The deer harvest was a dismal 20,348. The chart below will give you comparisons.


Chart contains the latest deer kill number for 2015 as published by Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.  The 200 pound bucks numbers were compiled from data published by The Maine Sportsman Magazine.

Also today, I posted information from the MDIFW announcing dates, times and places where meetings will be held in which citizens can attend and voice their thoughts and opinions about Maine’s wildlife. Perhaps with a reminder to sportsmen that the deer herd simply is not getting any better, contrary to what we have been told, it will stimulate some effort to attend these meetings. It appears the hoped-for global warming isn’t getting the job done.

Maybe it was the back-to-back “severe” winters in 2007/2008 that cut the deer herd down substantially…or maybe not. If it was, why hasn’t the herd recovered? Surely winters haven’t been too severe. Maybe the deer managers haven’t figured out yet that global warming alone can’t recover and sustain a healthy deer herd. Maybe there are other factors. Maybe northern Maine has become a Predator Pit. Maybe MDIFW is too busy counting bats, butterflies and piping plovers.

What has puzzled me since studying the recent Big Game Survey, is that hunters, generally speaking, are very much satisfied with how MDIFW manages the deer herd. The survey tells us that deer hunters primarily hunt for meat and that the highest percentage of hunters were “very satisfied” with their deer hunting experiences in the past 5 years. That percentage of “very satisfied” deer hunters is highest in the southern regions of the state at 70% (where the deer population is highest). Satisfaction is lowest in the north with 49% of hunters still claiming satisfaction with their experience.

When I see results like this is when I question the viability of the survey. I wrote recently to explain about being aware of surveys and the Delphi Technique used to derive sought-after results. Is this what’s going on?

Further examination of the survey also reveals that 70% of those hunters not happy with their deer hunting experiences, were such due to lack of deer.

So, you figure it out. Most deer hunters want meat. Most deer hunters are “very satisfied” with their hunting experiences, and those that aren’t say it’s because there are too few deer. If this is true, expect nothing in deer management to change, especially if a majority of deer hunters aren’t interested in greater opportunity to harvest a deer.

Consider that the survey queries hunters about their experiences over the past 5 years. When we examine the chart above, we see that over the past five years, deer harvest has been terrible compared to previous years. Is this a case of sportsmen becoming accustomed to spending time in the woods merely for the fun of it and they have learned to be excited at the mere event of seeing a deer, or not seeing a deer? Perhaps.

During this past deer season, all I heard from sportsmen was that there were tons of deer and that they were big. The harvest data doesn’t reveal that. Is this conditioning? Comparing those harvests between 2009 and 2012, this year’s harvest is no better. We are becoming accustomed to deer harvests below 20,000, where once they approached 40,000. Isn’t it time for some better management? Waiting on a warming climate to grow more deer isn’t going to work evidently. Are we taking too many deer? Are we taking too many does? Doe deer haven’t been taken in northern Maine for several years, and what has that done to the deer herd?

And why are sportsmen satisfied with their hunting experience? Evidently their most important reason to hunt deer – for the meat – is a pipe dream. What have deer hunters become?

Changes in how deer are managed are needed. Sportsmen need to open their eyes to reality and start complaining. We pay a lot of money for game management and a chance to harvest deer. We should begin acting like it.

Demand changes!




Hunters Sometimes Might Be Stupid and Lazy

Very early on in my writing career, I was told by veteran writers never to talk badly about your reading audience. That is probably true. However, if my reading audience doesn’t change their ways at certain things, I won’t have an audience left. So, here goes!

If you believe that collecting data on harvested deer actually helps the wildlife biologists better manage the deer herd, then why wouldn’t you obey the law and tag your deer and then report it to the agency?

Louisiana evidently has a problem getting their licensed deer hunters to do just that. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries estimate that close to 140,000 deer are harvested during the deer hunting season. Of that number, only 65,081 deer were registered with the agency. Hunters failed to obey the law.

I’m guessing Louisiana doesn’t have a shortage of deer problem which may contribute to the lack of hunters following the regulations. Even with the threat of fines and jail time, officials claim it is not a deterrent. Instead they are going to enter everyone who registers their deer into a raffle to win prizes, including a “choice of a Remington 700 or Thompson Center breech-loading rifle in the winner’s choice of caliber, with a scope and case to go with it.” Seriously, is the best use of resources?

It appears that on the LDWF website, enough information that is required to purchase a license should be enough to prohibit the purchase of a license the following year if a hunter fails to report his deer. It seems that a few adjustments in the system could remedy the problem relatively easily. It may be more expensive that a grand prize but it might be a long-time cure.

I’m not one for government regulation of any kind. However, I think it is important to provide data to the wildlife biologists in order that they can properly manage game. Evidently Louisiana hunters do not.




How Long Does it Take to Count 22,490 Dead, Registered Deer?

I’ll go out on a limb here, but mind you I’m quite conservative, unbrave and often resort to just laughter, and say that 99% of Maine deer hunters are pretty much only interested in how many deer get tagged each deer season. All deer that are shot and handled legally, are tagged at a volunteer (that gets paid a small fee) tagging station and reported to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). So how long can it take to count registered deer? (See the 2014 deer harvest report just posted.)

Evidently quite a long time (see chart below).

There’s very few people, other than a couple of biologists at MDIFW (maybe), who care about how many bucks, how many does, what the weather was like or whether or not Aunt Mabel wore her thermals this year when hunting. Aside from interest in “trophy” deer, hunters just want to know how many deer were taken so they can compare it to many things…the most of which MDIFW couldn’t give a dried up deer bladder for.

Why then, do Maine deer hunters have to wait for a report that includes the number of deer tagged in each town, etc.? Perhaps a few like to have that information and wouldn’t bother them too much to get it in June or July even, and I question why that would take so long. (Note: I like every piece of data that COULD be gotten from MDIFW but still is like a slippery eel trying to get it.)

We live in an age where information is available in just about real time. “Unofficial” deer harvest numbers should be available, at a minimum of once per day; once a week would be nice or even one or two days after the conclusion of all the deer hunting seasons around mid-December. (Another note: Many states have near-instant reporting of deer harvest now. Maine doesn’t need to invent this on their own.)

Over the years, I have heard probably all the excuses of why it takes so long to report. The two that seem to rise up to the surface the fastest are: 1. The tagging stations take so long to report, and 2. It takes deer biologists(?) a long time to process all the data in order to put the report together. Both excuses are BS.

You and I could have a discussion about the hows, whys and wherefores of devising a deer harvest report but at least consider this. If MDIFW is still living in the dark ages, i.e. they can’t get registered deer information to August in a timely manner and it takes months to draft a report, then by God it’s time for a change – a change that would save license fee payers lots of money. Aside from the initial outlay of a handful of computers and Internet modems, if service is not available in remote areas, a tagged and registered deer should be on MDIFW’s hard drive in a matter of hours from the time the deer is tagged. A simple computer program can accomplish all tasks assigned to it. This becomes electronically accomplished, instead of hours of man-hours paid – how much per hour?

Any business taking 3-7 months to take data and devise a report has inefficiency and unnecessary costs plastered all over it. It is also destined for failure.

I’ll leave this rant with another thought. I hear unending calls for more money for MDIFW. Some work tirelessly to get general tax dollars to prop up MDIFW. I’m not necessarily against responsible funding of MDIFW. However, I have called for a complete audit, made available to the public, BEFORE any more money is thrown at MDIFW. The above example might just be proof of one incident where money is being wasted and could easily be corrected through efficiency.

Who knows. Maybe combine this with some sound deer management and Maine could once again have deer to hunt. Cheer up. According to many of these managers, global warming is going to save the deer.



Maine Deer Harvest Slightly Above Abysmal

Press Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

Deer harvest second highest in the past six years

AUGUSTA, Maine – Deer hunters in Maine harvested 22,490 deer in 2014, the second-highest total in the past six years.

“Hunters had an unusual year with heavy snow hitting much of the state on opening weekend, and then again during Thanksgiving,” said Kyle Ravana, IFW’s deer biologist. “Those are always two of the busiest weekends of the year for hunters, and it gave many hunters the chance to track and harvest a deer.”

Maine’s November firearms season for deer attracts the most hunters and accounts for most of the state’s deer harvest (18,510). Maine’s deer season starts in early-September with expanded archery, and ends with the muzzleloader season in mid-December, providing hunters with over 80 days in which to pursue deer. The deer hunting season allows for the department to manage the deer herd and provide wildlife watching and hunting opportunity in much of the state while decreasing the deer population in other areas in order to reduce deer/car collisions and property damage, and prevalence of lyme disease.

While the 2014 buck harvest was similar to 2013 (15,986 to 16,736, a difference of 4%), a decrease in the number of harvested does was expected due to a previous winter (2013-14) that was above average in its severity which resulted in a corresponding reduction in any deer permits.

The department decreased the number of any deer permits last season by 20% in order to compensate for deer that may have succumbed to the harsh winter conditions. As a result, fewer adult does were harvested. In 2014, 4,401 adult does were harvested, which was approximately 17% below the 2013 harvest of 5,308 adult does. The Any-Deer Permit system plays a vital role in the management of Maine’s deer since it was first implemented in 1986. By controlling the harvest of female deer in the 29 regional wildlife management districts throughout the state, biologists can better manage population trends.

For the 2015 deer season, the department is again suggesting a decrease in the number of any deer permits due to another harsh winter.

For 2015, the department is recommending a total of 28,770 any deer permits. This is a decrease of 23% (8,415 permits) from 2014. Most of these any deer permits will be issued in southern, central and midcoast Maine, where the deer population is growing, remains highly productive, and usually experiences milder winter weather. There also will be some permits issued in eastern Aroosotook, as well as southern Piscataquis and southern Penobscot counties. In most of northern and downeast Maine, there will be no any deer permits issued and hunters will be allowed to take only bucks.

“By decreasing the number of any deer permits available, we can offset some of the impact of the now two consecutive harsh winters,” said Ravana.

The any deer permit recommendation is still in the comment period until June 6. Once the comment period closes, the Commissioner’s Advisory Council will then vote whether to accept the any permit recommendation.

The deer kill over the past five years includes: 2014 –22,490; 2013 – 24,795; 2012 – 21,553; 2011 – 18,839; 2010 – 20,063; 2009 – 18,092; 2008 – 21,062.


Quality Deer Management Association Ranks Pennsylvania Deer Harvest High

In the meantime, the Quality Deer Management Association recently released its 2015 Whitetail Report, which is based on 2013-14 season numbers.

There are 37 states that provide data to QDMA for its annual report.

Basically, it’s every state but those in the West.

For Pennsylvania, the non-profit organization uses data submitted by the PA Game Commission.<<<Read More>>>


Percentage of Maine’s “Big Bucks” Continues to Decline

Below is s copy of a chart that is created each year by a good friend of mine. Since 1999 it shows the annual deer harvest, as provided by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The chart makes several comparisons, as you can see.

Once the deer harvest numbers are official, this chart compares the current harvest numbers with past years’ as a percentage of the deer harvest in 1999. The number of “Big Bucks” harvested and reported (200 lb. minimum), as obtained from the Maine Sportsman Magazine, is shown. From there, several comparisons by percentage are shown. These comparisons are based on the 2000 numbers as they are the highest reported during this 15-years span.

As you should be able to tell, the percentage of Big Bucks harvested, compared to the total deer harvest, since 2000, has been mostly on a steady decline. Obviously with a reduced harvest one would expect the total number of Big Bucks to also be reduced. But what is troubling is that the decline of Big Bucks is not proportional to the overall harvest.

But what does that tell us? The obvious would be to state that there appears to be an age structure shift in Maine’s deer herd. And what causes a change in age could be one of several things and/or a combination of them. Without all the data, my ideas would be nothing but guesses. It could be nothing more than a corrective shift downward in age to bring the herd in line with management goals, or it could be at the other end where there are just too many Big Bucks that have been and repeatedly get taken each year…but I doubt that. It is possible that in addition to a reduced overall deer population in Maine, there’s also been a loss in natural foods and nutrients that cause deer to grow large in body mass. Or, the Big Bucks are being harassed by predators prohibiting normal weight gain.

But here’s a question and something to think about. One might wonder if it is a natural phenomenon that during a period when a deer herd is shrinking, the percentage of Big Bucks would not necessarily mirror that of the overall herd? If that were true, then can we surmise that as the herd grows in numbers, the percentage of Big Bucks increases as well? My pea brain logic would tell me the exact opposite. But hell, what do I know?


Note: On the above chart please notice that the deer harvest for 2014 is an estimate. When the official number is made available, hopefully this year, I’ll post the correction.


But, What About Predators?

Here we go! Whining and complaining about how whitetail deer harvests in many “deer hunting” states continues to drop. Complain and complain, have meetings and do some more complaining and yet? Not one stinking word spoken about predators. Not one.

If I keep saying the same thing over and over and over, maybe the problem will magically correct itself.

“The causes offered up by officials are many and varied including recent severe winters, disease, tough hunting conditions, intentional herd reduction, and fewer doe tags. Seldom do you hear anything about habitat and hunter-access loss, declining hunter interest, and mismanagement of the habitat and the deer herd…<<<Read More>>>

Round and round the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel. The monkey thought it was all in fun…..POP GOES THE WEASEL.


Finally, Maine Releases 2013 Deer Harvest Data

It won’t be long now before hunters in Maine will begin getting prepared for the 2014 white-tailed deer hunting season and to help get you “pumped up” the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has released the deer harvest results for the 1947 2013 deer hunting season.

What’s the hold up on the bear harvest data?


Maine’s Number One Game Animal Getting No Attention

Below is a graphic that shows the length of time it has taken the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) to release deer harvest data to the public over the past nine years. This includes this year, of which the harvest data has not been released as of this posting. The graphic was put together by a reader.

Many states that have deer and other game animal harvests, provide the public with harvest data, even more complex and containing more and better information in a matter of hours or days from the close of each season. Maine appears to be the slowest of them all.

For some it’s just the number of deer taken that they are interested in. Maine sportsmen don’t even get that in a timely manner. Spring and summer fishing is well underway, with the least of thoughts about the last deer hunting season. Maybe that’s the reason it takes approaching 6 months to get the data. Out of sight and out of mind?

For others, myself included, I like to examine all the data. As a matter of fact, I would like all the data collected on deer and used to calculate population estimates and how many, if any, permits will be issued. For those of us interested in better understanding of what is going on with deer management, things like pre harvest and post harvest information would be helpful. In addition, fawn recruitment rates, age structure, etc.

This year, as of today, sportsmen have been waiting 152 days for deer harvest data. That’s the longest time in the past nine years. The average over the previous 8 years has been 99.75 days. That in and of itself is abysmal, but why 152 days.

In George Smith’s article today in the Bangor Daily News, he says, “The sad fact is that the agency doesn’t know how many deer died this past winter, or how many deer we have in the state. Maine’s #1 game animal isn’t getting the attention and research needed to assure good decisions on harvest, habitat, and other critical issues. The Maine Game Plan for Deer has fallen far short of its goals.”

And maybe this dragging of the feet, while butterflies are counted, is a substantiation of Smith’s frustrated concern. In a state were once simple deer tagging numbers were readily published in the newspapers only hours after a busy hunting weekend, the Maine deer hunter has to wait 152 days…..and counting. I guess this is progress? In a day and age where information is instantaneous, 152 days to wait for deer harvest data? If I did my job that lousy, I would have been fired and would be some surprised if I hadn’t been. And I guess that’s progress too!

The person who developed this graphic used the start date for counting each year as December 15th. The muzzleloader season may end a few days before that. He included weekends and holidays. He used today’s date for the 2013 calculation but the report is not done, so it will likely be greater than 152 days. He used this calculator to do the dates. The dates on the online screens vary by location. If they did not have it proudly displayed he used the document date tag on the webpage.



Maine’s 2013 Deer Harvest Comparative Figures

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, on Friday, released their deer harvest data which showed a 15% increase, which on first glance appears to be the result of an increase in “Any-Deer Permits” issued prior to the season. (the data has yet to be published on the MDIFW website.)

Below is a table prepared by my in-house statistician that shows information for 2013, some of it preliminary, and how that data compares with previous years.

After I have had a chance to thoroughly examine the harvest data, I will, more than likely, file a report on my findings.