Two whitetail deer stand in a field, alert to potential threats. Applications are now being accepted by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for its any-deer permits and bonus deer permits. Credit: Courtesy of Melissa Huang

If deer hunting were easy, we would all have meat in the freezer.

According to Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife deer biologist Nathan Bieber, only approximately 15.6 percent (29,207) of the 220,407 licensed hunters in Maine took a deer in 2020.

The number is an estimate, he explained, but it shows the magnitude of the challenge faced by deer hunters.

“It’s difficult to say exactly what success rates [are] since we can’t actually track everyone with a license to see if they hunted or not, such as with lifetime license holders,” Bieber said.

In 2019, the estimated deer hunting success rate was 14.9 percent.

The DIF&W estimates that 85 percent of people licensed to hunt deer are active hunters in a given year.

If you would like to increase your odds of harvesting a deer next season, I have a suggestion for you: fill out your any-deer permit application.

The DIF&W is now accepting applications for any-deer permits, which allow hunters to take an animal of either gender. There is no fee for the permit, but you must have a valid big-game hunting license to apply.

All you have to do is go to the DIF&W website at anydeer.web.maine.gov/online/any_deer_lottery/ and fill out the requested information.

The state plans this year to issue approximately 153,910 any-deer permits, which allow hunters possessing them to tag an antlerless deer, or a buck with antlers less than three inches in length.

The WMDs were the most any-deer permits are proposed for 2021 include WMD 23 (23,980), WMD 25 (23,760), WMD 21 (20,475), WMD 22 (20,160) and WMD 17 (15,165).

The permit is good during the regular firearms (Nov. 1-27) and muzzleloader (Nov. 29-Dec. 11) seasons. It also is valid for those allowed to hunt on Youth Deer Day (Oct. 23) and on Maine Resident Only Day (Oct. 30).

Bieber said Maine’s antlerless deer harvest in 2020 was 14,020, which included 9,120 adult does and 4,900 fawns.

While you’re filling out the any-deer application, you also have the opportunity to apply for a bonus deer tag. Those further expand the chance for hunters to harvest an additional antlerless deer in zones where more permits are awarded than applications are received, and in deer management subunits.

That means you could potentially take two deer in the fall, if you play your cards right and have a little luck.

If you’re like me, your first instinct is to pursue a buck, maybe one that sports a nice set of antlers. But in my experience, the frustration of deer season can alter your approach.

If your primary goal is putting venison on the table, it’s nice to have an any-deer permit to fall back on, since does often seem to be easier to find.

Antlerless deer may be taken only in Wildlife Management Districts for which the any-deer permits are valid. Hunters who don’t have an any-deer permit or bonus deer permit are limited to bucks only (antlers three inches or longer) statewide.

The application deadline for the any-deer permit and bonus permit drawing is 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 17.

You may request up to three WMD choices, in order of preference.

The any-deer permit drawing will be held on Sept. 10 and the results will be posted at bangordailynews.com and on the DIF&W website.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...