Maine’s deer herd

Maine’s hard-pressed deer population, which was subjected to two consecutively brutal winters, got a break with this past winter with relatively moderate temperatures and scant snow cover. As Maine’s state deer biologist Kyle Ravana often points out, the state of Maine’s deer herd is tied irrevocably to the Winter Severity Index (WSI). When all is said and done, WSI is the single most significant driver of whitetail survival in this state. Ravana says:

“The final WSI has not yet been run, but preliminarily, we’re looking at a winter that may be tied for the most mild winter, at least for deer, going back to 1975. The estimated over-winter mortality this year is expected to be a little over 5 percent; this is about 6 percent below the long-term average for the state (averages a little over 11 percent). This was an easy winter for deer and provided them a good respite following the last couple winters. To add strength to this, we trapped 149 deer this winter in central Maine and most were in good condition. There were definitely some that were thin, but by far I would say most deer over-wintered well.”

“We expect productivity to be up as a result of the mild winter, and early green-up. As such, so too should the harvest numbers next season. This will likely be reflected in our permit allocations.”

North Woods trophy buck hunter Hal Blood, who follows deer issues closely, is optimistic for next fall’s deer harvest. Hal writes:

“All the deer were in great shape right down to the smallest fawns. Hunters should see plenty of deer this season if they get out in the woods. The odds of seeing a buck should also be high as there were a lot fewer tagged last season.”

 Hal also notes that, because of the open winter, deer tended not to yard up. Therefore they were able to get up on the ridges early in April for much-needed foraging opportunities.

How was last fall’s deer harvest? State deer biologist Kyle Ravana has some answers:

“Overall 20,325 deer were registered during 2015, representing a decrease of 9.6 percent from the 2014 deer harvest. IFW biologists predicted a harvest of around 19,300 deer, which was slightly lower (~ 5 percent) than the actual harvest. Breaking down the 2015 harvest, 16,576 deer were tagged during the general firearms season. This was a 10 percent decrease in deer harvest by firearm hunters in 2014. A total of 1,451 deer were harvested during the expanded archery season. This equates to an 8 percent decrease in the expanded archery harvest from 2013. In contrast, during the regular archery season 26 percent more deer were harvested than in 2014. Maine’s youth harvested 826 deer, which was 2 percent above 2014 harvest on Youth Day. Last, but not least, Maine’s muzzleloader seasons hunters tagged 746 deer, a decline of 30 percent”

“This year’s buck harvest of 15,344 animals represents a decrease of 4 percent from last year, but is slightly higher than the projected harvest of 14,500 bucks. Southern Maine is well known for being a highly productive region for the state, in terms of its deer population. As such, it goes in hand that the top five buck-producing wildlife management districts (WMDs) are also located in the southern tier of the state. The WMDs with the highest buck harvest were, in order from greatest buck harvest to least, per square mile of land, are 24, 21, 29, 22 and 23. Despite this, northern Maine’s adult bucks are, on the average, slightly larger expressing an average weight of 180.3 pounds. In comparison, their more densely populated cousins in the south average approximately 156 pounds.”

“One of the driving forces of Maine’s deer population is winter weather. The 2014-15 proved to be severe in nature which often results in a decline in the deer population. To offset potential over-winter losses, MDIF&W reduced Any-deer permit (ADP) allocations by approximately 23 percent (28,770) from 2014’s total allocation of 37,185 permits. The overall goal of the 2015 ADP allocation was to limit the doe harvest to 3,274 adult does. Overall, Maine hunters harvested 5,418 antlerless deer (i.e., adult does and fawns), of which 3,615 were adult does.”

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected].

V. Paul Reynolds

Columnist at Ellsworth American
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. His email address is [email protected]

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