Contrary to a recent press release issued by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheres and Wildlife, Maine’s 2014 firearms season for deer kicks off with a Maine residents only on Nov. 1, not Nov. 2. Starting the following Monday, Nov. 3, the deer season is open to all licensed big game hunters. ( If you wait until MDIF&W’s announced start date of Nov. 4. you will have missed opening day).

What’s the Maine deer season outlook?

Pretty darn good if you combine the statistics, the deer biologist’s forecast and the so-called “anecdotal evidence.”

According to the harvest data and all the buzz, there has been a definite rebound of deer numbers following the severe winters of 2008 and 2009.

Kyle Ravana, Maine’s deer biologist, estimates that if normal hunting conditions and hunter effort prevail, this year’s dear kill will be in the 25,750 range, nearly a 20 percent increase from last year’s kill. The total deer kill for the last 10 years is as follows: 2012 – 21,553; 2011 – 18,839; 2010 – 20,063; 2009 – 18,092; 2008 – 21,062; 2007 – 28,885; 2006 – 29,918; 2005 – 28,148; 2004 – 30,926; 2003 – 30,313.

According to Ravana, harvest trends support the fact that the population has rebounded.

Ravana said, “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.

“Most telling is the annual buck kill, an index used by the department to note trends in the population. Maine’s buck kill has increased each of the past four years. Last year’s buck harvest increased 23 percent from the previous year. In much of the state, the buck kill exceeded the 10-year average, another sign the deer population has rebounded.”

The deer recovery is attributted to a number of factors: first and foremost, consecutively mild winters, “focused predator control” (dead coyotes) and better protection of deer wintering areas.

In general, outdoor people are reporting deer sightings from one end of the state to the other. This has not been the case for too long. Deer hunters are pumped.

Most exciting of all, perhaps, are some near-record buck harvests last fall in the big woods of far northern Maine.

This trend, combined with the likely survival of Maine’s traditional bear hunt, can only help Maine’s hard-pressed rural economy. It will take time to bring back many non-resident deer hunters who have been staying away in droves.

The promotional arm of the Maine Department of Inland Fishheries and Wildlife, when it gets its calendar organized, might consider some overdue marketing initiatives to get the word out about the long-awaited recovery of Maine’s once- beleaguered deer herd.

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 e-mail address is [email protected] . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”


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