Maine’s any-deer permits will be slashed 20 percent this fall. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reports “the winter of 2013-14 was of above average severity, which may have resulted in increased winter mortality rates for over-wintering deer.”
Focus on the word “may.” The sad fact is that the agency doesn’t know how many deer died this past winter, or how many deer we have in the state. Maine’s #1 game animal isn’t getting the attention and research needed to assure good decisions on harvest, habitat, and other critical issues. The Maine Game Plan for Deer has fallen far short of its goals. This year 17 of the 29 Wildlife Management Districts will get no any-deer permits, 4 more than last year.
DIF&W issued 46,710 any-deer permits last year, a 36 percent increase over 2012. This year the agency is recommending 37,185 permits, a cut of 9,525 permits. Commissioner Chandler Woodcock and the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council will act on this recommendation later this month. It is certain to be adopted.
The increase in permits in 2013 resulted in a harvest of 5,307 adult does. This year, DIF&W hopes to harvest no more than 4,348 adult does.
The reduction in permits will have a significant impact on resident adult hunters who were already scheduled to receive fewer any-deer permits this year
Last year the legislature allocated 25 percent of the any-deer permits to junior hunters, beginning with the 2014 lottery. Twenty five percent of the any-deer permits currently go to landowners, 15 percent to nonresidents, and 2.5 percent to Superpack licensees. With the new requirement that 25 percent go to junior hunters, less than a third of the permits will be available for resident adult hunters.
Because we don’t yet know how many hunters will apply for any-deer permits this year, I’m using the 2013 number. Bill Swan, Director of Licensing for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, reports that in 2013 there were 1,482 Superpack applicants, 8,857 landowner applicants, 52,783 resident applicants, 4,348 nonresident applicants, and 6,038 junior applicants (that were not included in the resident and nonresident numbers above).
Yes, it’s complicated. But I’m going to keep it simple here. Of the 37,185 any-deer permits issued this year, only 12,395 will go to resident adult hunters. If 52,783 residents apply for these permits, as they did in 2013, 40,388 will be disappointed.
In my WMD 16, permits are being reduced from 2,855 to 2,015. Personally, I think the deer came through the winter in my area just fine. I’ve been seeing deer – including some with fawns – and they all look very healthy. In my favorite turkey hunting area, there is a doe with twin fawns, and another group of 9 deer. But we won’t get to shoot many of them this fall!