Marsh Island deer season still needs support

Posted Dec. 19, 2008, at 6:27 p.m.

A few weeks back, after years of planning and negotiating and debating, a controversial Marsh Island deer hunt finally began.

Last week, the two-week “deer reduction” season ended.

And earlier this week, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife issued a news release that let people know how everything turned out.

Twenty specially selected bowhunters shot a total of eight deer over the course of the special season.

That’s right. Eight deer.

For years, some Marsh Island residents had fought the proposal to reduce “their” deer herd, ignoring the fact that the state’s wildlife belongs to all Maine citizens.

As the hunt was approved and finally neared, some vowed to never let it be repeated.

It wouldn’t be safe, some said. It wouldn’t be proper, others claimed. It would amount to a senseless slaughter of essentially tame animals, still others contended.

Then a funny thing happened.

The hunters went hunting … and proved, unintentionally, how difficult it is to outwit a deer.

As one who has tried for several years to do so (and who has failed for just as many years), I can’t say I was surprised.

For years, the deer-reduction effort languished as different constituent groups failed to reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, the Marsh Island deer herd grew out of control.

Finally, state and local officials reached an agreement that would help address the problems that occur when too many deer live in close proximity.

In the wake of the hunt, with only eight deer taken, it’s likely that people will ask several pointed questions.

Among them: One group will undoubtedly ask why people fought so hard for a hunt with such a low yield.

Then another group will ask why opponents of the hunt fought so hard for a hunt that impacted so few deer.

In truth, neither of those questions does the issue justice.

The fact remains that the state’s wildlife professionals have set a goal for the optimum deer population density in various areas.

And the fact remains that on Marsh Island, the deer density is far higher than that optimum level.

That’s bad for auto owners who run into the deer. That’s bad for homeowners who find their gardens are nothing more than feed plots for deer.

And that’s bad for the deer, which will have a tougher and tougher time finding food until the herd size is decreased.

Just eight deer were killed during this year’s hunt. That leaves plenty behind for wildlife watchers to enjoy.

In order to let wildlife managers do the job we pay them to do, we can’t afford to stymie future efforts to stage safe, well-planned hunts like the one that just concluded.

Ain’t he cute?

Among the spam e-mail and press releases that made it to my desk this week was one that made me chuckle.

Seems the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and Remington Arms have teamed up to sponsor a contest for deer hunters across the nation. That’s not really big news … but the headline that a PR staffer attached to the release sent my mind wandering.

“Looking for America’s Best Looking Deer,” announced the headline.

Before you start putting lipstick on your prized deer mount to make sure it qualifies as one of the nation’s best looking specimens, rest assured that makeup and makeovers aren’t necessary.

For that matter, the only deer that can be entered are those shot during the 2008-2009 season.

But if you did happen to have a professional photographer with you in the field, that would count as a huge plus.

Not only does your deer have to be good looking … your photo does, too.

The USSA will judge entries based on “[the] deer’s overall quality of appearance, shape of the rack (if applicable) and the photo background.”

It’ll cost you $5 per entry, but the grand prize winner will take home a Bushnell rangefinder, a Remington Fieldmaster cleaning kit and Remington Sportsman series Fast Action Soft Touch fixed-blade knives.

If you’re interested in learning more, go to www.ussportsmen.org/hunterschoice.

McNamee tops field

In the biathlon world, all of the top competitors are strong skiers, and how accurately an athlete shoots on a given day often makes the difference between victory and a sub-par finish.

The penalty for shooting errors is stark and simple: Miss once, and you ski an extra 150 meters. Miss twice and you owe 300 meters. Three misses, and you’ll pay a 450-meter toll before you’re allowed to head back onto the trail.

On Thursday, Hilary McNamee of Fort Fairfield combined her typically strong skiing with the best shooting of her career and won a NorAm sprint race in Coleraine, Minn.

According to coach Gary Colliander, the director of biathlon development at the Maine Winter Sports Center, McNamee had never before shot “clean” in a competition.

McNamee, 18, hit all five targets from the prone position in 33 seconds, then took just 27 seconds to hit all five targets from a standing position.

Addie Byrne of Bovey, Minn., was second in the competition, missing three of her 10 targets.

Andrea Mayo of Soldier Pond missed four targets and finished third, while BethAnn Chamberlain of Caribou missed five targets and took fifth.

In other biathlon news, 21-year-old Russell Currier of Stockholm finished 32nd and was the top American finisher in an International Biathlon Union World Cup sprint race in Val Martello, Italy, on Friday.

Currier, who also represents the Maine Winter Sports Center, hit eight of 10 targets and finished the 10-kilometer course in 28 minutes, 10 seconds. Evgeny Ustyugov of Russia won the race in 25:14.

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