AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists are preparing reports that may help hunters in the weeks ahead.
Downeast, hunters in the coastal district are having a lot of success.
“In [Wildlife Management District] 27 along the coast, the number of deer taken is a recent high. Tagging stations are already ahead of last year’s totals with a big week still to go,” said DIF&W wildlife biologist Tom Schaeffer.
While success in the coastal WMD has been strong, Schaeffer notes that as you head into the Down East interior, success rates start to drop, and the deer kill in WMDs 28 and 19 is more on par with recent years. Overall, however, numbers are either at the average or above the average of the last five years. There are other positive signs as well.
“The yearling take is quite noticeable,” said Schaeffer, “and we are seeing good numbers of 2 and a half year old deer as well.” Schaeffer said that means there is decent winter survival of last year’s fawn crop which bodes well for the future.
“A good number made it through last winter and through the hunting season as well,” Schaeffer said.
Schaeffer has handled a number of deer this year, and has noticed a number of traditional crotch and spike horn bucks for yearlings. All are in decent shape and in condition. He also noted that tooth replacement seems advanced this year, but feels that could be due in part to the later calendar season, which is a week later than most years.
Good things are happening up in the Moosehead region, where all the area tagging stations are showing an increase in numbers over the past few years.
“Some tagging stations are up by as much as 20 percent,” said DIF&W wildlife biologist Doug Kane. “Kokadjo is up, and it has been like a desert up there the last few years.” Kane thinks that the region hasn’t rebounded all the way back for the harsh winters of ’08 and ’09, but “people are happy because they are seeing deer.”
The big bucks are starting to show up in the harvest as well, as there was one 15-pointer that was shot in the southern part of The County, and it topped out at more than 260 pounds.
Kane, who is gathering biological data from a number of harvested deer, is also pleased with what he’s seen as far as age structure of the harvest.
“The yearling and 2-and-a-half year old numbers are really strong. The two-and-a-half year olds are really showing in the rut,” said Kane who says this bodes well for numbers in the spring.
The rut is in full swing as well. Kane remarked about an interesting observation. He was at the tagging station at Indian Hill last Friday, he handled three bucks, and all three were shot between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. All were out chasing down does in the middle of the morning.
“I have never seen anything so marked as that,” said Kane. “I am hearing a lot of stories about bucks chasing does.” Kane also cautioned hunters not to get confused if the bucks seem to stop moving. He said that when does are in peak estrus, there isn’t much movement, but just before and just after is when you get the peak movement for bucks.
“All our registration stations are way above where they have been the last few years,” remarked DIF&W wildlife biologist Allen Starr, who said that deer totals for the season include over 80 deer registered in Hudson, over 100 in Corinth and the Katahdin General store in Millinocket tagged over 60.
One of the reasons for the many success stories is that the weather has cooperated with hunters.
“All in all it has been pretty good conditions for hunters,” said Starr, who noted that while earlier last week it had been pretty windy, the cold, clear weather boded well for hunters later in the week.
Starr said the deer he has seen have all been in very good condition. He saw a nice nine-pointer that topped out just under 200 pounds (198.5) that was shot in the Katahdin Iron Works area.
Perhaps more interesting was a large yearling Starr checked, that was five points with nice thick antlers.
Up in the County, a very successful deer season continues.
“I would say that deer registrations are up by 75-100 percent over the last few years,” said DIF&W wildlife biologist Rich Hoppe, who noted that Ben’s in Presque Isle was up over 100 percent from last year with still a week to go. “Hunter effort is up, and success rates are up.”
Hoppe has examined a number of the harvested deer and has come away impressed.
“The deer are in excellent shape headed into this year’s winter. What we noted with moose, with the exceptional weight and antler growth, also seems to be reflected in the deer,” said Hoppe.
“The excellent habitat and mild winters have enabled deer to maintain optimal body condition with high fat reserves,” said Hoppe. “This will serve them well going into winter and should translate into higher survival rates.”
Hunting conditions have also been very good as well. During the week of Veterans Day, there was snow on the ground Monday through Wednesday. Hoppe said he saw lots of hunters who took advantage of the excellent conditions to spend some time tracking deer.
If you’ve already tagged out or would rather chase grouse than deer, Hoppe added that there still is some excellent bird hunting in the western part of the region.