These whitetail does check out a nearby hunting party in northeast Somerset County during the moose hunt in October 2017. State biologists on Tuesday recommended a 28 percent increase in any-deer permits for the 2018 hunting season. The 84,745 permits awarded will be the most since Maine implemented the any-deer permit system in 1986. Credit: Pete Warner

State biologists on Tuesday unveiled a plan to increase the number of any-deer permits to 84,745. That total is about 8,000 higher than ever allotted in Maine.

The total number of any-deer permits is determined after a three-step rulemaking process that takes place with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife advisory council, which met on Tuesday. The previous high-water mark for any-deer permits came in 2002, when 76,989 permits were allotted.

A year ago, during the 2017 deer hunting season, the state increased the level of any-deer permits to 66,050, up from 45,755 in 2016 and 28,770 in 2015.

A memo presented to the advisory council, written by DIF&W deer biologist Nathan Bieber, said that a mild to moderate winter in central and southern Maine led to average to above-average deer survival in those regions; a severe winter in northern Maine led to below-average survival rates.

“For 2018, we recommend a total of 84,745 permits to be issued across 22 [Wildlife Management Districts] to meet our doe harvest objective of 8,909 does,” Bieber wrote in the memo. “Deer populations in WMDs 1, 4, 5, 10, 11, 19 and 28 remain below goal and will remain as bucks-only harvest.”

Any-deer permits are one of the tools that biologists use to manage the state’s deer population. In places where there are high densities of deer, those permits — which are allotted via lottery — allow hunters to shoot deer that do not have antlers, if they choose.

For the rest of hunters during the firearms season, the lack of any any-deer permit generally means that they’re restricted to hunting for antlered deer, which are typically males.

“Buck harvest continues to trend upwards in many southern districts and we’re starting to see some very high doe:buck ratios out there,” Bieber said in an email response to questions. “We’ve adjusted a few of our target doe:buck harvest ratios, which has resulted in further permit number increases in some of these districts.”

Maine presents an interesting mosaic of deer habitat, with some areas supporting a thriving population, some areas with few deer, and still other areas that face overpopulation issues.

“There are a few districts where we’re trying to slow population growth a bit and others where we are hoping an increased doe harvest will bring doe:buck ratios back down,” Bieber wrote.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their...