This month, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W) released its numbers on deer and moose.

There is some good news. Last fall’s deer harvest was up 15 percent over the previous fall. This marks the third consecutive year that Maine’s deer harvest has increased.

We must keep the numbers in perspective, however. The 2013 harvest total was 24,795? that’s a far cry from the good ole days of deer hunting when harvest totals topped the 30,000 mark.

We must also keep in mind that 36 percent more doe permits were issued last fall than were issued in the fall of 2012. This begs the question: was the deer kill up by virtue of the higher permit allocation or actual higher deer populations? It’s probably a little of both. State game biologists allow more permits when the deer numbers are up.

Another positive outcome indicated by the harvest statistics of last fall is that the deer harvest was up in almost all of the state’s wildlife management districts. In the long-term scheme of deer management, this may be the most encouraging news of all. The litmus test of deer survival always takes place in northern Maine wildlife management districts (WMDs) where the snow is deepest and the temperatures the lowest.

According to MDIF&W some does were taken with permits in WMDS 3 and 6. This was the first time since 2007 that doe permits were issued at all in these WMDs. Of course tagging 17 does in WMD 3 does not a deer recovery make. Still, it is a good sign and better than no doe permits at all. (Although there is a common refrain among north woods sportsmen that we ought to issue no doe permits up north for the foreseeable future and let the herd grow.)

As we are learning, so much of deer population figures are reliant ­ not upon acts of men ­ but upon Mother Nature’s weather patterns. Before this recent winter from hell, deer were being spared by back-to-back mild winters. Although this spring’s anecdotal deer sightings are suggesting a surprising plenitude of relatively healthy deer, the Department is erring on the side of caution and, because of the tough winter, issuing fewer doe permits this fall compared with last fall.

The not-­so-­good news is that, according to MDIF&W biologists, ticks did a number on Maine’s wintering moose. Biologists reported from tagging station information last fall that the tick count on harvested moose was the highest in ten years! Based on radio collar data, MDIF&W reports that this winter there was a 30 percent mortality rate for female moose. The normal winter kill of female moose averages about 10 percent.

The Department will be allocating 3,095 moose permits for this fall, which is 25 percent fewer than those issued last fall.

State moose biologist Lee Kantar told the Bangor Daily News, “Even with the increase in ticks this year, by decreasing the number of antlerless (moose) permits available (this fall), we can continue to meet our population objectives for moose.”

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co­host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News­ Talk Network (WVOM­FM 103.9, WQVM­FM 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.”


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