Deer harvest remains steady but permits getting slashed

DSCN8230Maine hunters harvested 22,490 deer in 2014, about the same number as the previous year, but any deer permits for 2015 will nevertheless be slashed by 23 percent.

Kyle Ravana, the lead deer biologist for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said, “By decreasing the number of any deer permits available, we can offset some of the impact of the now two consecutive harsh winters.”

The deer kill for the past five years was: 22,490 in 2014, 24,795 in 2013, 21,553 in 2012, 18,839 in 2011, 20,063 in 2010, 18,092 in 2009, and 21,062 in 2008. Ravana noted that last year, “Hunters had an unusual year with heavy snow hitting much of the state on opening weekend, and then again during Thanksgiving. Those are always two of the busiest weekends of the year for hunters, and it gave many hunters the chance to track and harvest a deer.”

In a DIF&W press release on the 2014 deer harvest, the agency noted that “Maine’s deer season starts in early-September with expanded archery, and ends with the muzzleloader season in mid-December, providing hunters with over 80 days in which to pursue deer.”

And just in case you think deer management is all about hunting, this was also in the press release: “The deer hunting season allows for the department to manage the deer herd and provide wildlife watching and hunting opportunity in much of the state while decreasing the deer population in other areas in order to reduce deer/car collisions and property damage, and prevalence of lyme disease.”

I’ve been wondering lately how long folks in southern Maine will put up with large populations of deer as cases of Lyme disease increase and public concern skyrockets. My outdoor news columns on deer ticks and Lyme disease attract very high numbers of readers, sometimes from all across the country.


Buck and Doe Harvests


The 2014 buck harvest was 15,986, down slightly from the 16,736 bucks harvested in 2013. The department cut any deer permits in 2014 by 20 percent, resulting in a decrease in the harvest of adult does from 5,308 in 2013 to 4,401 in 2014. The agency’s goal in 2014 was to harvest no more than 4,348 adult does.

This year we’ll get 28,770 any-deer permits. DIF&W reports that, “Most of these any deer permits will be issued in southern, central and midcoast Maine, where the deer population is growing, remains highly productive, and usually experiences milder winter weather. There also will be some permits issued in eastern Aroostook, as well as southern Piscataquis and southern Penobscot counties. In most of northern and downeast Maine, there will be no any deer permits issued and hunters will be allowed to take only bucks.”


Who Gets Permits


Twenty five percent of the any-deer permits go to junior hunters, 25 percent to landowners, 15 percent to nonresidents, and 2.5 percent to Superpack licensees. Less than 1/3 are therefore available for resident adult hunters. It gets a bit complicated, but this means less than 9,500 any-deer permits will be going to resident adult hunters.

I am intrigued by the notion that the huge majority of deer hunters don’t get a deer. The department estimates that 175,000 Mainers hunt deer. That means 152,510 did not get a deer last year. I think many of them never or only rarely shoot a deer. As one who has “gotten my deer” almost every year for the last 40 years, I sometimes wonder what drives these unsuccessful deer hunters out into the woods every fall. Maybe if you are one of those hunters, you’ll tell me!

One other interesting bit of information that we received from DIF&W in response to a request from Representative Patrick Corey is that 3,212 senior hunters received any deer permits in 2014. Those hunters shot 477 deer, including 230 does.

And in 2014, 4,414 deer were killed on our highways.

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,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.