These days, good news in Maine is about as plentiful as smooth roads in April.
There is some upbeat news, though, especially if you are a Maine deer hunter. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W) has proposed the issuance of a record number of doe (any-deer) permits this fall! You heard right. If the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council goes along with the department’s doe-permit proposal, and it is expected to do so, there will be approximately 109,000 doe permits issued for the fall deer hunt.
This is a whopping 60 percent increase over last year’s doe permit totals. Last year, approximately 42,000 doe permits were issued.
What’s going on? Why are we suddenly pulling out all the stops on doe permits when, not so long ago, Maine was losing hundreds of licensed hunters due to deer shortages, especially in the North Woods.
It is either a feast or a famine, it would seem, when it comes to Maine’s whitetail population. According to Maine’s head deer biologist Nathan Bieber, a marked increase in deer numbers, especially does, is attributable to two factors: 1) milder winters 2) an under-harvest of does by last fall’s hunters.
In a recent interview on my weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors” (WVOM-FM), Bieber said that there had been over the past 10 years a consistent under-harvest of does. In order to maintain a stable, properly managed deer population, biologists establish “culling targets” by issuing X number of doe (any-deer) permits to hunters. The extent of the under-harvest, according to Bieber, has remained steady at about 25 percent. The variables over which biologists have little influence are, of course, weather during the November hunt and hunter behavior (many hunters turn down does in hopes of getting an opportunity at a big buck.)
Based on their adjusted statistical model, Bieber is hopeful that 109,000 doe permits this fall will translate into a harvest of 13,000 does. The buck-to-doe ratio in Maine, says Bieber, is about 2.5 does to 1 buck, a ratio which is perfectly acceptable to him.
Although doe numbers are high enough to warrant a marked increase in any-deer permits, the population disparity between northern and southern Maine has not materially changed. There are no doe permits being issued in Maine’s northernmost wildlife management districts (WMDs)
Bieber says that there is still some confusion about the issuance of bonus permits in some WMDs. These are available in WMDs 26 and 25. There is no charge for these bonus permits, and they are available to applicants who check the bonus permit box at the time of application. Bonus permits may be additionally allocated in other WMDs if there is a decrease in applicants for any given WMD.
The online application process for any-deer permits opens on the MDIF&W website in late June. The firearms season for deer begins Oct. 31 for residents and Nov. 2 for all hunters.