These whitetail does check out a nearby hunting party in northeast Somerset County during the moose hunt in October 2017. Credit: Pete Warner | BDN

For deer hunters, December signals the end of the season, as the last of the muzzleloader-toting hunters finally abandon the woods after two weeks of trying to fill their tags.

For the state’s wildlife biologists, the management and research effort will continue well into the winter, as they begin to set goals for the coming year, as well as make progress on waiting field work.

Nathan Bieber, the deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said informal management discussions will begin fairly soon. Helping the biologists along is access to preliminary data as a result of the state’s new online big game registration system, which went into operation in 2018. Before that system was in place, data on the harvest of big game animals was not available for months, while paper registration books were keyboarded into state databases.

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“As far as management goes, we don’t get the full exported data set [on the 2019 deer harvest] for a little while yet but we’re still able to provide recommendations months earlier than we were prior and we have the data to look at much, much sooner,” he said. “We have a lot more time to work with and look at and consider and discuss those data.”

Bieber said work has already begun on the state’s long-term winter severity monitoring system, with snow and temperatures measured at 26 stations around the state. Those measurements are taken from December through April.

In addition, the DIF&W is entering its sixth year (of a probable seven-year effort) to learn more about the state’s deer herd by putting radio collars on deer and tracking their behavior and mortality over time.

“We started in Wildlife Management District 6 with some early captures just to kind of get our feet under us and have collared about nine does already,” Bieber said. “So we’ve got that going on from January through April.”

That WMD 6 area is just one of the spots where deer are being fitted with collars, he said.

“We’re pretty much done there, but we wanted to get a handful more collars out this year because the deer there are relatively easy to catch, compared to the [more remote] Allagash or Patten sites, where we’ll be working the rest of the season,” he said. “This is just a good opportunity to get crew trained and catch some deer where there are more deer to catch.”

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...