RUMFORD – Antlerless deer from northern Maine to parts of Franklin and Oxford counties could catch a break from hunting pressure this fall as the state proposes restricting harvests to bucks only in many wildlife management districts.

Earlier, state biologists said the long and harsh winter was expected to result in a higher than typical deer kill and that in turn could prompt a reduction in ‘any deer’ permits.

On Tuesday afternoon, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Roland “Dan” Martin proposed reducing the number of antlerless deer permits – also known as ‘any deer’ permits – by 23 percent for this fall’s regular firearms and special muzzleloading deer hunting seasons.

He also wants to restrict the archery season and Youth Hunting Day to bucks only in wildlife districts where no antlerless permits are being allocated. Archery season runs from Oct. 2 through 31, while the special youth day is Oct. 25.

In Martin’s proposal, hunters would be issued 51,125 any deer permits this year in 13 of Maine’s 29 wildlife management districts. That’s a decrease of 15,150 permits from last year. It’s also seven fewer districts that will be open to antlerless permit holders.

Districts where any deer permits would be allowed – essentially, western, central, southern and parts of the Downeast areas – are 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 29. The district numbers correspond with map plots in hunting regulations and rule books.

Martin said the numbers are preliminary and could be modified when additional data becomes available. Harvest levels are established for each district to move the district toward a population goal.

“After reviewing biological and harvest data for deer compiled by department biologists, and after factoring in winter weather’s impact on deer populations, we decided a 23 percent reduction in permits was prudent to help us achieve population goals within specific management districts,” Martin stated in a Tuesday report.

Snow depth is the biggest factor behind Martin’s proposals, according to IF&W state deer biologist Lee Kantar of Bangor.

“The deeper the snow, the more it restricts mobility and taxes a deer’s energy budget,” Kantar stated recently in a department report.

Whitetails spend the winter in deer yards with limited resources, relying largely on fat reserves from the previous fall to survive until spring.

“Good deer yards help slow the downhill slide of fat reserve use by providing thermal protection and some limited food sources. The longer that winter stays, and the later it takes for spring to arrive and green up, the harder it will be for deer to hang on,” said Kantar, who last month predicted the large decrease in any deer permits.

Random drawings will be used to allocate deer permits to applicants by district.

The department will conduct public hearings on the commissioner’s proposals at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30, at the Greenville High School in Greenville and at 6:30 p.m. on May 8 at the Presque Isle Fish and Game Club in Presque Isle.

The deadline for additional comments is May 19.

To comment, contact Andrea Erskine, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, No. 41 SHS, Augusta, ME 04333 or e-mail [email protected]

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