For wildlife management purposes, Maine recognizes four species: deer, bear, moose and wild turkeys.

In order for state wildlife biologists and Augusta policymakers to make decisions about how best to manage our important big game animals, there must be a plan. This plan directs wildlife managers on how best to do this in a way that takes into consideration, not only the animal populations, but the concerns of diverse human stakeholders, from farmers and landowners to hunters and wildlife viewers.

Since 1968, Maine has been engaged in big-game planning. Put simply, the idea is to listen to all stakeholders and then devise game management goals and strategies to reach these goals.

Last year, with the help of a respected national research organization, Responsive Management, the state began the stages involved in revising Maines’ Big Game Management Plan. This time, rather than creating a game management approach for each of the four big game species, the vision is to put together one master plan that encompasses all of the big four.

Anyone wishing to learn more only need check out the organizational details that are available on the website of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Once on the website, click on “wildlife.” There you can also read the list of people who have been selected to serve on the various species committees. You will find that some are your neighbors and outdoor acquaintances. As a public stakeholder, you will have an opportunity to weigh in with your thoughts during the public hearings that will take place this year.

The research findings, I believe, are more interesting than you might think. For example, here are some highlights that caught my attention:

  • Of outdoor folks surveyed, 91 percent had hunted deer during the past five years.
  • One-third had hunted moose and one-third had hunted bear. Less than a third had hunted turkeys.
  • The county most frequented by deer hunters was Aroostook, followed by Penobscot, Oxford, York and Somerset. (Surprisingly, Piscataquis County did not warrant a mention.)
  • The most important reason deer hunters gave for hunting was for meat (50 percent). Another 25 percent said they hunted deer for sport and challenge.
  • When asked what constrained them from hunting, 40 percent said nothing. The majority, however, indicated lack of discretionary time. Surprisingly, no one mention of access issues. That did come up, though.
  • When asked about hunting access, 64 percent said it was good, while 34 percent said access was poor. In the scheme of things, this last percentage should raise some eyebrows among hunt planners. It is by far the most comparatively negative data item that I could find. In fact, those who perceive access to be poor are no doubt among the ranks of discouraged hunters.
  • Only 28 percent of the landowners sampled allow open access and 48 percent said that they manage their land for wildlife.
  • A whopping 91 percent support coyote control programs.
  • As for the quality of Maine’s deer management program, 70 percent responded that it was good to excellent, while 36 percent thought it was fair to poor.
  • Finally, if push came to shove, and a decision had to be made between managing for deer or managing for moose, deer came out on top hands down.

What are your thoughts? If you have thoughts or suggestions on how Maine can better manage its big game populations, the public hearings are the place to be heard.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at

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