ORONO, Maine — The second Marsh Island deer hunt in recent years took place over a three-week period in October and resulted in the harvest of 46 deer. The bowhunt took place between Oct. 5 and Oct. 24 on public and private land in Orono and Old Town totaling 1,042 acres.
The first deer hunt allowed on Marsh Island in decades took place last December on 265 acres of public land owned by the city of Old Town and resulted in a harvest of just eight deer. Officials reviewing last year’s event decided the lower-than-expected yield reflected the lateness of the season and the limited area of the hunt, as well as a stretch of cold, rainy weather that coincided with the dates of the event.
Both last year and this year, the bowhunt was open only to selected members of the Maine Bowhunters Association who met specific guidelines established by the Bowhunters-Landowners Information Program. In 2008, 17 archers participated in the hunt; this year, 22 participated. Archers are neither paid to participate in the herd-reduction effort nor reimbursed for their expenses.
At least 31 of the deer harvested this year were donated to families and individuals.
Four deer were shot and wounded but not recovered by hunters despite searches and the use of tracking dogs, according to a statement Monday from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which organized the hunt.
The entirety of Marsh Island, which encompasses much of the populated areas of Orono and Old Town as well as the University of Maine campus, has been a designated wildlife management area since the 1960s, with all hunting prohibited. The recent decision to offer a limited bowhunt reflects growing concern over the size of the deer population on the roughly 10-square-mile island. Area residents and public officials site the frequency of car-deer accidents as well as the ongoing battle to keep the animals out of flower and vegetable gardens.
Other residents have objected to the idea of hunting the Marsh Island deer herd on the grounds that the animals have become tame and should be protected.
Bowhunters this year kept track of pedestrians and other recreational users seen on the land parcels they hunted. Most individuals observed were unaware of the hunters’ presence, according to the IF&W statement, and all face-to-face encounters were described as “friendly.” Two individuals were caught while trying to steal a tree stand, and one poacher was apprehended by a participating archer, a game warden and a Maine State Police dog.
“Overall, [this year’s hunt] clearly showed that archers and the public at large can share the woods without incident or concerns for safety,” the IF&W statement concluded. A 2010 hunt is planned, though no details have been released.