When deer season rolls around each fall, a pair of questions regularly crop up. The first is the most famous, of course: Get your deer yet?
The second, while not uttered as often, can be particularly important to hunters looking to fill their freezers with venison: Did you get a doe permit?
Each year, the state allots a certain number of any-deer permits — commonly referred to as a “doe permit” — through a lottery system. Get one, and you can shoot a doe or a fawn, if you choose. If you’re thwarted by the lottery gods, you’ll be targeting bucks during November.
Depending on the size of the state’s deer herd, the number of permits changes from year to year.
Lee Kantar, the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s head deer and moose biologist, said he and other DIF&W staffers have formulated the plan for this year. The good news for hunters: there will be a 7.6 percent increase in any-deer permits this year.
The bad news: If you’re like me, you still won’t get one.
The proposal has passed through two steps in the three-step rulemaking process, and awaits DIF&W advisory council approval. The council will meet next week to consider the matter.
Kantar and his colleagues plan to allot 48,825 permits this fall. A year ago, after the state’s deer herd had withstood two straight harsh winters, just 45,385 any-deer permits were handed out. In 2008, 51,350 hunters had any-deer permits, while in 2007 that number was 66,275.
Kantar said the state must issue a certain number of permits in order to have the required number of does removed from the population, according to each district’s management plan.
How many permits must be issued to remove a single adult female — the “expansion factor” — varies from district to district, he said, and is often tied to the amount of access that hunters have to the woods in a given district.
Biologists manage the deer in each Wildlife Management District independently, but Kantar said that statewide, biologists have found that they must issue an average of seven or eight permits for every adult female deer they want harvested.
“I think the most interesting thing about this year is that in general we had what turned out to be an extremely mild winter,” Kantar said. “When we all met for our discussion on permitting, we had two things in mind. One, we had a mild winter, which is going to help us with growth in many areas all across the state. [And two], at the same time, we want to take a conservative approach to permitting.”
Kantar explained that the DIF&W relies on science and well-established guidelines when setting any-deer permit numbers. Biologists have a bit of leeway in their decisions … but not much.
In order to buffer the effects of the deadly winters of 2007-08 and 2008-09, Kantar said the permit numbers were not increased as much as they may have been if the previous winters had been more moderate.
“[In] some of our best management areas in the central part of the state we are actually seeing a status quo if not a slight reduction in permit levels,” Kantar said. “Usually after a mild winter you’d see a big boost.”
The most significant increase in permits will come in Wildlife Management District 16, which includes Livermore Falls, Oakland and Fairfield. WMD 16 will receive 5,400 permits this year, which is an increase of 2,000 permits, Kantar said.
Several other WMDs will receive a few hundred extra permits this year.
By contrast, the DIF&W will allot only 5,530 permits — a decrease of 2,450 from 2009 — in WMD 22. That district borders WMD 16, and includes Gardiner, Topsham and most of Lewiston.
Among the changes: A limited number of permits have been allotted in two WMDs that had been bucks-only during the past two years.
Western Maine’s WMD 12, which includes Bethel, will receive 645 permits. WMD 13, which includes part of Farmington, will get 490.
Bradley fishway dedication set
The Atlantic Salmon Federation will host a noteworthy event on Saturday as the new fishway on Blackman Stream will be dedicated.
The fishway was built at the dam at Leonard’s Mills Logging Museum in Bradley.
The fishway dedication, which will be held at 10 a.m., marks the culmination of an eight-year effort by the Atlantic Salmon Federation and its Maine Council. The goal: To connect Blackman Stream to the Penobscot River and provide essential fish passage.
In conjunction with the project’s completion, the Maine Department of Marine Resources recently stocked sea-run alewives in Chemo Pond, which is upstream of the dam.