Fascinating opinions about Maine’s big game animals

DSCN8234The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has posted a survey on its website that you will want to spend some time reading. I posted a column about the survey last Friday. It was done by Mark Duda and Responsive Management, and I attended a presentation of the results that Duda made last week to DIF&W’s big game management steering committee. The agency is preparing new game management plans this year, and Duda’s research is an important part of the process.

The process includes public meetings throughout the state and an online forum where you can express your opinions on bear, moose, deer, and turkeys. I will alert you the meeting dates and times, as well as the process for participating in the forum, as soon as DIF&W provides that information.

But let’s start where the Steering Committee started, with Duda’s survey. You can read the entire 500 page report on the agency’s website, here.

Let me whet your appetite a bit. I just read through the introduction and among all the things I learned are these.

Satisfaction with Hunting

The survey asked about hunters’ satisfaction levels for hunting for the four primary species of interest in the survey over the past 5 years (for deer and turkey) or over the past 15 years (for moose and bear). All those who did not answer that they were very satisfied (and those who answered “don’t know”) were then asked why they had not been more satisfied.

The large majority of deer hunters were satisfied with their deer hunting: 82% were satisfied; 15% were dissatisfied. Lack of harvest success is, by far, the most common reason for not being more satisfied with deer hunting. The large majority of moose hunters were satisfied with their moose hunting: 91% were satisfied; 7% were dissatisfied. Lack of harvest success is the most common reason for not being more satisfied with moose hunting. The large majority of bear hunters were satisfied with their bear hunting: 90% were satisfied; 7% were dissatisfied. As with other species, lack of harvest success is the most common reason for not being more satisfied with bear hunting. The large majority of turkey hunters were satisfied with their turkey hunting: 92% were satisfied; only 5% were dissatisfied. Again, lack of harvest success is the most common reason for not being more satisfied with turkey hunting.

Bear Hunting

The survey explored opinions on bear hunting for various reasons, with five possible reasons to hunt bear presented to respondents. The most support is for bear hunting as a way to manage bear populations or bear hunting for the meat. Bear hunting to economically benefit rural areas has middling support. At the low end, there is little support for human-centered reasons (for a trophy—the least supported—or for recreation).

Other Issues

Although a majority of hunters rate access to hunting lands in Maine as excellent or good (64%), there is a substantial percentage giving a fair or poor rating (34%). Paralleling the results above, 34% of hunters agree that lack of access to hunting lands in Maine has caused them to not hunt as much as they would have liked in the past 5 years. On the other end, 61% disagree.

The majority of hunters think the current hunting license fees are about right (74%); otherwise, 22% say that they are too much, compared to only 3% who say that they are not high enough.

Opinion is closely split regarding a law requiring that harvested bucks have at least 3 points on one side: 46% of hunters would support, but 50% would oppose.

Ratings of turkey management in Maine are more positive than negative, with 49% to 58% giving a positive rating of excellent or good, but 28% to 34% giving a rating of turkey management as only fair or poor. The percentages who do not know range from 14% to 18%.  The majority of each group says the turkey population should remain the same (from 52% to 62%). However, the remainder more often want a decrease than an increase: from 27% to 31% want to see a decrease, compared to just 6% to 13% who want an increase. This is the only species of the four in the survey for which decrease is markedly more than increase.

While most landowners in the survey (61%) did not experience any problems with wildlife on their largest tract of land in the past 2 years, the obverse of this means that a fairly large percentage (39%) reported having problems. • The most common culprits were coyotes, deer, and turkeys.

There’s a lot more – a whole lot more – fascinating information in this survey. You’ll want to set aside some time to read through it, and I’m sure I’ll be writing about it for some time to come!

Next up: I’ll be telling you about the information presented to the Big Game Steering Committee about the current management and issues for each species.

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. 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.