At long last, the Maine deer are coming back! On opening day, my wife Diane saw six does in our new hunting area.

According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W), all of the anecdotal evidence and scientific wildlife management indices underscore the good news. It has been a long time coming. During the slump in deer numbers following some consecutively tough winters, hunting license sales dropped precipitously. Sporting camps were hurting for business as the bad news spread and nonresident hunters stayed away in droves. That, in turn, hurt a rural Maine economy that was already hard pressed.

So the turn around in deer numbers should bring a smile to many – not just hunters and sporting camp operators. In an uncharacteristically exuberant press release recently, MDIF&W recently proclaimed the deer recovery:

“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. “

Additionally, Maine’s new deer biologist, Kyle Ravana, went out on a limb and predicted that this fall’s deer harvest would be about 25,750, or 20 percent more than last year’s deer harvest. This is good, but a far cry form the halcyon days of Maine deer hunting when the annual deer kill invariably exceeded 30,000.

To what can we attribute this welcome rebound in whitetail numbers?

Of course, the obvious answer is winter weather. It is the big ticket item that, as former deer biologist Lee Kantar always said, is the single most significant factor when it comes to deer survival. Biologists who manage wildlife have no control over Mother nature.

But there are other lesser determinants of deer survival and added together, they too play a part in the overall equation. We are talking habitat, predation, and game management policy. Cumulatively, these factors are, as Commissioner Chandler Woodcock said, all “core principles” in Maine’s Game Plan for Deer.”

Coyote hunters and trappers have significantly reduced coyote numbers. This helps. Some woodland owners are helping protect known deer yards. This helps too. A conservative policy toward the issuance of doe permits has also contributed to the deer rebound as well.

One deer-survival issue not being talked about that should be is predation on young deer by bears. Studies show that black bears kill as many vulnerable young deer as coyotes. Not only are we not harvesting enough bears annually to control the increased bear numbers, bear hunting as we know it could be quashed in next year’s bear referendum!

Go figure.

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The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His email address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.” Online information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com or by calling Diane at 207 745 0049.


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