As the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife advisory council debated the seemingly straightforward agenda item in front of them Wednesday morning, it quickly became clear their options were limited.
It also became clear some members of the council weren’t pleased by their lack of options.
According to council rules, when a rule-making proposal reaches its third and final stage, there can be no tinkering. There can be no compromise. All there can be is a simple up-or-down vote.
The proposal up for vote during the meeting at the Bucks Mills Rod & Gun Club in Bucksport called for allotting 45,385 any-deer permits for the 2009 hunting season.
It also wouldn’t allow junior hunters to harvest a doe on Youth Deer Day if they were hunting in a zone that was “bucks-only” during the regular firearms season.
That second piece of the proposal, as you may imagine, was a major sticking point … with no un-sticking in sight.
DIF&W Commissioner Roland “Danny” Martin said he’d been in contact with the state attorney general’s office to see what would happen if the council failed to pass the proposal.
“What happens if there’s a negative vote here?” Martin says he asked. “Do we go back to the 2008 any-deer permit numbers? The answer was ‘No.’ We go back to zip.”
Then Martin explained the situation even more succinctly.
“If we don’t have a majority vote here on this initiative today, in 2009 there will be no any-deer permits issued.”
The proposal passed 6-2 with council member Albion Goodwin of Pembroke abstaining. Members Frank Dunbar of Bucksport and Joe Clark of Millinocket voted against the rule.
Some 45,385 permits will be allotted. Youth hunters will no longer be allowed to shoot does on Youth Deer Day in bucks-only Wildlife Management Districts.
Clark made it clear before the vote that he was opposing the measure, which he said was unfair to the youths who live and hunt in one of 18 Wildlife Management Districts that are bucks-only this year. Youths in the state’s other 11 WMDs would be allowed to shoot antlerless deer on Youth Deer Day, pointed out Clark, who said he didn’t think that was fair.
“Time and time again everybody said it’s about the youth, it’s about the youth,” Clark said. “They are our leaders for the future. Well, if that’s the case, then why are we shutting out  WMDs to the youth?”
After the decision was made, Clark conceded his vote was largely symbolic, and that he likely wouldn’t have voted against the proposal if he’d thought it had a chance of failing.
The 45,385 any-deer permits comes after a second straight tough winter on the deer herd, and marks a decrease from the 51,350 permits allotted a year ago. In 2007, 66,275 permits were handed out.
Mark Stadler, director of the DIF&W’s wildlife division, said a legislature-mandated task force recommended youths and archery hunters should not be allowed to hunt does in bucks-only zones.
Both groups were targeted during the any-deer rules process in 2008, but top DIF&W staffers decided to let youth hunters continue to hunt does for another year.
“To be faithful to the work the northern-eastern deer task force did, the department, the wildlife division, feels obligated to carry forward their recommendation to you for 2009,” Stadler told the advisory council.
The same 18 WMDs, mostly in northern and eastern Maine, were bucks-only zones a year ago. Stadler said a total of 105 to 110 deer were shot by youth hunters in those bucks-only zones on 2008’s Youth Deer Day.
Martin said teaching young hunters to abide by the same ethical principles that guide adult hunters was important and, after talking to the legislature’s Fish and Wildlife Committee, he decided that moving forward to remove the youth any-deer exemption was important.
“We feel very strongly on this — I do personally and so does wildlife staff — that the youth initiative should be contained and is contained in [the proposal] before you,” Martin said.
In other council action that may be of interest to local hunters, members approved another bowhunting season for deer on Marsh Island in Old Town.
The season will run from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 with several restrictions attached.