Maine’s firearms for deer season opens Saturday for residents

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Whether it rains or snows on Saturday, Kyle Ravana of Sangerville is going deer hunting.

Rain, he said, keeps sounds and smells down, improving hunters’ chances, and snow makes tracking them easier.

Saturday is opening day for Mainers hunting deer with firearms. The season starts Monday, Nov. 3, for nonresidents and continues through Saturday, Nov. 29.

Ravana, who is the state’s deer biologist, said he will be trying to find the “really nice” buck he missed with a 70-yard shot as the deer was looking right at him last year. It took off when he fired.

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Ravana will join more than 175,000 hunters looking to bring home some venison this season. And despite a success rate of 14 to 15 percent, there are plenty of deer out there, he said.

“So if we can maintain or increase that success rate, I will be pretty happy with that,” he said.

Like last year, Maine is offering five hunting seasons for deer: expanded and regular (October) archery, rifle, muzzleloader and youth day, which was Oct. 25.

During the 2013 hunting season, 24,795 deer were registered. The registered harvest by hunting season was 1,717 deer for expanded archery, 408 for regular archery, 781 for youth day, 20,810 for regular firearms and 1,055 for the muzzleloader season.

This year, Maine’s statewide harvest should be within the range of 19,000 to 24,000 deer, provided that normal hunting conditions and hunter effort happen, Ravana said in the department’s 2014 Research and Management Report. It is available on the MDIF&W website and in stores such as Ellis Pond Variety in Roxbury.

To accomplish deer management objectives this year, doe harvest quotas ranging from zero to 950 animals were set among the state’s 29 wildlife management districts.

By controlling the harvest of female deer in the districts, biologists can manage population trends. To that end, he said 37,185 any-deer permits were issued statewide ranging from 150 permits in WMD 26 (the Bangor to Belfast area) to 8,550 in WMD 21 (Lewiston to Biddeford area). More than 64,000 hunters applied for the permits.

“Totaling 4,348 does statewide, the 2014 doe quota is 18 percent below the doe harvest we achieved in 2013,” Ravana said.

No permits were allocated in northern and eastern Maine in WMDs 1-11, 13, 14, 18, 19, and 27-29. To view the districts, visit www.maine.gov/IFW/wildlife/land/wmd/map.htm.

He said the allocation of 37,185 any-deer permits, along with the archery and youth seasons, should result in the statewide harvest of roughly 4,348 does and an additional 2,217 fawns in 2014.

Last year, any-deer permits were increased from 37,000 to 46,710. But this year, they were decreased from 46,710 to 37,185. That 20 percent reduction is significant, he said.

Last winter, while longer than usual, was Maine’s 14th harshest winter since the 1950s. In comparison, the winter of 2008 was the third harshest and 2009 revealed the ninth harshest winter.

Compared to the winters of 2008-09, the winter of 2013-14 was rather mild for deer, so it was “relatively easy” for deer to build up vitality, he said.

Since 2009, the deer population has been recovering.

“Last year there was a higher risk of mortality for animals predisposed to death, but deer overwintered well,” Ravana said. “So we have conservative optimism, because the deer look healthy and there does seem to be a lot of them.”

He said people are seeing a lot of fawns with does this year, including twins and triplets. That, Ravana said, indicates that the population is healthy.

Antlered buck harvests should approximate 15,010, which is about a 10 percent decrease from the 2013 buck kill of 16,765 animals, he said.

As the deer population rebounds, purchases of hunting licenses, especially by residents, follows suit, Ravana said.

“Now that the population is bouncing back, interest is starting to creep back in, and I hope it’s a trend that we can maintain,” he said.

tkarkos@sunjournal.com

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