Hunters and game animals go south

If you are planning to hunt this fall in Maine, you are probably hunting in southern Maine. The majority of deer and turkeys are now hunted and killed in the state’s southern counties. Maine Sunday Telegram outdoor reporter Deirdre Fleming analyzed 12 years’ worth of tagging station data for her very interesting story published on July 28, 2013.

Maine’s 8 southern counties, with just 20 percent of the state’s land, registered 50 percent of the 350,000 deer and 66 percent of the 70,000 turkeys killed in the last 12 years in the state. As deer disappeared in the north woods over the past six years, the move south has been even more pronounced for deer hunters- by far the largest group of hunters in Maine.

Scott Lindsay, southern Maine wildlife biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, told Fleming, “There is plenty of undeveloped land in southern Maine. There is plenty of hunting, and a very strong wildlife population. I see it in every town I go into.”

This begs the question: how are southern Maine private landowners feeling about this increased hunting? Keel Kemper, another southern Maine DIF&W wildlife biologist, told Fleming, “Asking for permission is becoming more and more a way of life. It’s not something people here grew up with. When I first moved here from Georgia that stunned me. Where I grew up, you asked permission if you wanted to get out alive.”

Quite obviously, southern Maine hunters – and I am one – are finding places to hunt. My experience has shown that you can gain access to posted land by asking permission and treating landowners well. But I fear that as this move south continues, hunters will be crowded onto smaller parcels and private landowners will grow weary of providing access throughout Maine’s long hunting seasons.

It is also very likely that private parcels will be leased by hunters who can afford to do so, to limit access to that land by other hunters. That’s a trend that should be closely monitored – and a trend that makes the purchase of land and access rights by and for the public all the more important.

DIF&W’s new landowner relations program suffered a blow, before it even got off the ground, when coordinator Mark Latti moved to a different position as Communications Director for the agency’s fisheries and wildlife divisions. The landowner relations position has not yet been filled.

Tom Doak discussed these and other issues with Harry Vanderweide and me on Wildfire in a show that was aired in August. You can still watch the show online from Maine Audubon’s website (www.maineaudubon.org). Check it out!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.