Deer hunters are excited about the upcoming season, as deer numbers have rebounded from the back-to-back severe winters of 2008 and 2009. As a result, IFW wildlife biologists are expecting an increased deer harvest for the third straight year.
The firearm season for deer opens on Saturday, November 2 for residents and Monday, November 4 for nonresidents. The firearm season for deer concludes on November 30.
“Through strong management, conservation and some milder winter weather, Maine’s deer herd has rebounded,” said Governor Paul R. LePage. “Hunters are excited as they are seeing more deer throughout the state. We wish them good luck this season, and as always, we urge everyone to be safe while enjoying Maine’s great outdoors.”
Kyle Ravana, Maine’s deer biologist, estimates that if normal hunting conditions and hunter effort prevail, this year’s dear kill will be in the 25,750 range, nearly a 20 percent increase from last year’s kill. The total deer kill for the last ten years is as follows: 2012 – 21,553; 2011 – 18,839; 2010 – 20,063; 2009 – 18,092; 2008 – 21,062; 2007 – 28,885; 2006 – 29,918; 2005 – 28,148; 2004 – 30,926; 2003 – 30,313.
“After the severe winters of ’08 and ’09, the department instituted ‘Maine’s Game Plan For Deer’, a three-pronged approach to restore Maine’s deer herd,” said Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “The three core principles of the game plan for deer include protecting and enhancing deer wintering areas, deer population management and focused predator control.”
At the core of Maine’s deer management program is the any-deer permit system, which regulates the harvest of does. One male deer will breed with multiple does, so by adjusting the number of female deer removed from the population, biologists can manage the deer population.
Maine’s wildlife biologists monitor winter severity throughout the state from December through April to determine the impact that winter weather has on deer survival. Maine is at the northern edge of the white-tailed deer’s population range, and severe winters can negatively impact Maine’s deer population. Recently, northern Maine has experienced four consecutive milder-than-average winters, and southern Maine has experienced two.
Maine’s biologists also examine thousands of deer for disease, analyze deer teeth to determine age structure of the harvest, monitor antler beam and growth for health and conduct hunter surveys to determine hunter effort and sightings. All combine to give department biologists a clearer picture of the health and size of Maine’s deer population.
The deer harvest has increased for the past three out of the last four years since hitting a low point following the severe winters of 2008 and 2009, a strong sign of a growing deer population. More importantly, several other indicators show that the deer herd has rebounded. Maine’s buck (male deer) harvest has increased for four straight years, and there have been record buck harvests in several wildlife management districts.
Harvest trends support the fact that the population has rebounded. Last year, WMD 3 in Eastern Aroostook County had its highest buck harvest ever, and WMD 6, while not a historical high, had one of its highest buck harvests ever. As a result of the increasing deer population in WMDs 3 and 6, the department issued any-deer permits in these WMDs 3 and 6 for 2013. Hunter surveys also show that hunters are seeing more deer.
Most telling is the annual buck kill, an index used by the department to note trends in the population. Maine’s buck kill has increased each of the past four years. Last year’s buck harvest increased 23% from the previous year. In much of the state, the buck kill exceeded the 10-year average, another sign the deer population has rebounded.
Perhaps more noticeable is the anecdotal evidence supporting the biological trends.
“There’s a buzz about the deer season. People are emailing, calling, telling us about the number of deer they are seeing,” said Ravana. “Now is a good time to be a hunter in Maine.”
Logo courtesy Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife