When the final fall deer harvest numbers are totaled, in a few weeks after the close of the December muzzleloader season, the results will be irrefutable and very impressive.

At this writing, Maine deer hunters have tagged close to 42,000 deer. That number eclipses last year’s figures by a margin of about 14% If past is prologue, black powder hunters will tag another 1,500 animals. With the new doe system in play, you can expect the total figure to hover very close to a grand total harvest of 44,000 animals.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

To what do we owe this banner year for deer hunters? What is the dynamic at work?

Of course, hunters have already begun to speculate on the reason or reasons for the hunters’ bonanza. As the Bangor Daily News reported recently, we won’t be privy to much professional analysis until the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has had a chance to study and correlate the harvest data. The BDN writes, “… there is one dynamic that may have affected the increase: the revamped antlerless deer permit system.”

That is a good bet. But there are surely other significant causal factors at work. Weather wise, it was a wonderful deer season. During the peak of the rut in mid-November where I hunt, we were blessed with an early snow cover that resisted crusting over — perfect tracking conditions. Milder winters are playing a role, too, no doubt. We should not ignore the likely cause of higher deer survival rates upon substantive coyote control programs, either, especially in the North Woods. Kudos to those recreational coyote hunters and dedicated trappers who have culled our coyote numbers considerably. (Yes, coyotes near deer yards take down deer, even healthy ones).

If deer hunting is your passion, like it is mine, this news is as exciting as it gets, for a number of reasons. In more than 50 years of hunting Maine whitetails, I don’t recall ever having seen so many does. Equally exciting is this fact: tracking snow tells the story. Either the deer are there or they aren’t.


In Piscataquis County, where I have hunted for more than 50 years, we have endured some pretty lean years, deer population-wise. Clearly, deer are rebounding in this neck of the woods. This cannot be attributable to this year’s revamped doe permit system. It has to be a result of reduced predation by coyotes and bear, milder winters, and — in my hunt area — new-growth forest on the heels of years of massive clear cutting.

As if that isn’t enough good news, Maine is also on the cusp of sweeping and historic protection and preservation of traditional Maine deer-wintering areas statewide.

Frankly, I never expected in my time to witness a whitetail reformation of this magnitude. Much of this reformation is nature-based, but assorted groups of policymakers, biologists and Maine conservationist groups also share the credit.

As an aging but still enthusiastic and eager deer hunter, whose legs thankfully still work in the deer woods, I rejoice and pray for mobility next November. For the younger generations of hunters coming along — my sons, my grandsons and my granddaughters — my heart rejoices for them as well.

Deer hunters all. Next year holds much promise for the Maine deer woods.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, an author, a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Contact him at [email protected]

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