OLD TOWN, Maine — A two-week herd-reduction bowhunt for deer will open Monday on two parcels of city-owned land.
The hunt is not open to all bowhunters, only to a group of 20 pre-selected hunters who have met specific criteria established by the Bowhunters-Landowners Information Program of the Maine Bowhunters Association.
The two parcels are a 210-acre section that wraps around the Old Town municipal airport and a 155-acre parcel on Penny Road, across U.S. Route 2 from the former Georgia-Pacific paper mill.
The entirety of Marsh Island, which encompasses much of the populated portions of Orono and Old Town as well as the University of Maine campus, has been a designated game preserve since 1965. Confronted with an ever-expanding and increasingly bold population of white-tailed deer, residents, landowners and state officials have been stalemated for years over the idea of a hunt.
Many residents and game management officials feel the burgeoning herd is too large for the 10-square-mile island to support. They cite the frequency of car-deer accidents in the area as well as the ongoing battle to protect gardens and plantings from being eaten. Lyme disease, borne by ticks that live on deer, has not been reported as a significant problem but remains a public health concern.
Some residents, however, object strenuously to the idea of a hunt on the grounds that the deer on the island are tame and should remain protected. Other concerns have included the potential danger of conducting a hunt on or near university lands, which are heavily used for recreational and educational purposes.
The one-time deer-reduction hunt on isolated parcels of city property won the approval of the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife last month, and the Old Town City Council has endorsed the harvest.
In a prepared statement issued Wednesday, Roland “Danny” Martin, commissioner of DIF&W, expressed relief at the prospect of the limited hunt.
“After years of conversation, the limited season is finally on,” he said. “I look forward to seeing its results and, in the coming months, working with the city of Old Town, the town of Orono, the University of Maine and the public to evaluate its success.”
The department has crafted a lengthy list of guidelines for the hunt. In alignment with the general deer-hunting season, the bowhunt will begin a half-hour before sunrise and end a half-hour after sunset. Hunting will not take place on Sunday, Dec. 7. The last day of the hunt will be Saturday, Dec. 13.
Bowhunters may harvest up to three deer each; only one buck is allowed. Archers will be required to sign in and sign out each day they hunt and must also provide the make, model and license number of their vehicles. All arrows must be marked with identification numbers.