OLD TOWN, Maine — The historic and controversial bowhunt for white-tailed deer in Old Town came to a close last Saturday at sundown. On Thursday, the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife released a preliminary report about the event, revealing that just eight deer — five bucks and three does — were harvested over the two-week period that started Dec. 1.
Twenty experienced hunters were chosen to participate in the herd-reduction hunt, selected from the Bowhunters-Landowners Information Program of the Maine Bowhunters Association. Rules established by the state allowed each hunter to shoot up to three deer.
“The department’s focus for this limited season was to conduct a well-organized, disciplined and, above all, safe hunt,” DIF&W Commissioner Roland “Danny” Martin said in a prepared statement. “This clearly was accomplished. We’ve received mostly positive comments, and that’s due to the hard work and coordination given to us by the municipalities, the university and, most importantly, the archers.”
During the first week of the hunt, 17 archers participated; 14 took part during the second week, according to the report. Of the eight deer taken, seven were harvested on the Penny Road parcel and one was taken near the airport. Both parcels are owned by the city of Old Town.
One hunter who killed two deer donated one to the Hunters for the Hungry program.
The burgeoning deer population on Marsh Island, which has been a designated game preserve since 1965, has been a source of controversy for many years. Some residents feel the herd is a nuisance and a threat to public health and safety while others enjoy the creatures and want to protect them from hunting. Both sides have raised concerns about how a hunt could be conducted safely on the island, which encompasses much of the populated portions of Orono and Old Town as well as the University of Maine campus and its agricultural and forestry lands.
After years of public debate, the Old Town City Council in November voted to support the limited bowhunting season on city-owned land and the state enacted emergency rulemaking to allow it to happen this year. It remains to be seen whether the hunt will be repeated in the future.
Old Town City Manager Peggy Daigle said Thursday that the hunt had been uneventful.
“The biggest concern people had was that there would be hunters all over the place or that people would be put in danger,” she said. “None of that happened.”
Daigle said the council will discuss the future of the hunt after DIF&W presents a final analysis of the hunt. The department has not indicated when that will be.