PORTLAND (AP) – Official kill figures for Maine’s just-completed deer season won’t be available until mid-December, but it appears that the harvest may not live up to expectations.

The four-week firearms season ended quietly at twilight Saturday. It was one of the safest in memory, not only for deer, but for hunters.

Despite concerns that new legislation allowing hunters an additional half hour after sunset to hunt deer would lead to more injuries, the twilight hunting proved safe.

But a Norway hunter suffered a self-inflicted injury Saturday morning, bringing the total number of hunting-related injuries for the year to five. A dispatcher at the Maine State Police barracks in Gray said the injury isn’t life-threatening. She didn’t have any details of the mishap, however, and said the warden who investigated it was off-duty Sunday night.

“As far as safety, it was a very good year,” said Mark Latti earlier. He’s the Maine Warden Service’s spokesman. “There were probably over 180,000 hunters this deer season, and hunting continues to have a low rate of injury,” he said.

A sampling of reports from deer tagging stations indicated that business was below average this season. Latti said the deer kill will likely be below the 35,800 that wildlife biologists had predicted.

Warm, wet and windy weather in November was cited as a factor, with rain keeping some hunters at home and lack of snow making it difficult to track the elusive whitetail.

“We sold as many licenses as we would normally sell,” said Charlie Herrick of The Outdoor Sportsman hunting lodge in Northport. “But our tagging was down substantially from the previous year. … We tagged just over half of what we tagged last year.”

Herrick also said a decline in apples and acorns that normally attract deer may have contributed to a lower deer kill.

“There seems to be plenty of deer out there,” he said. “They just weren’t traveling at their normal patterns.”

Kevin Billings, owner of J & K Sporting Goods in West Paris, also said he tagged fewer deer this season than last year.

“Last year we tagged 250, now we’re around 175 to 180,” he said.

Billings said hunters seemed depressed over the amount of rainfall on weekends this month.

“The deer are still out there but a lot of people don’t want to go out and get wet,” he said.

Last fall, which was snowy and cold, was a banner season for deer hunters in Maine. Hunters in Maine killed 38,153 deer, the highest total since 1968. Success rate for all hunters was 22 percent, up from the previous year’s 16 percent.

The muzzleloader season opens statewide Monday and runs through Saturday, and through Dec. 13 in designated areas only. Expanded bow hunting season also runs until Dec. 13 in designated areas only.


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