AUGUSTA, Maine - Despite last year's harsh winter, deer hunters should find plenty of opportunity with deer populations still at their highest level since the 1950's. While hunters will probably not match last year's record buck harvest of 21,422, the number of successful hunters should be in line with that of deer hunting seasons in the mid to late 1990s. The regular firearm season for deer opens on Saturday, October 27 for residents, and Monday, October 29, for all hunters.
"While the above average winter severity did impact the deer population, this harsh winter followed a string of below average winters, and the deer population today is higher than it was even three years ago, and at its highest level since the early 1950's," said Gerry Lavigne, deer biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW).
"That means increased opportunities for deer hunters that didn't even exist five years ago," said Lavigne. This year, 54,000 antlerless permits were issued to hunters, the second highest number ever issued, surpassed only by last year's 69,715.
The antlerless permit system was designed to reverse a statewide decline in the deer herd that began in the late 1950's. Since 1986, the herd has grown from 160,000 to the present total of 292,000. Population growth rates have been monitored in each of the 30 wildlife management districts within the state, and targeted harvest totals have been set accordingly to coincide with population level objectives in each individual district.
Other factors that have contributed to the growth of the herd include a string of milder than average winters in much of the state over the late 1990s.
With optimum hunting conditions, the statewide deer harvest in Maine is expected to be in the neighborhood of 32,800, with the antlered buck harvest in the 18,700 range. Many factors, including last year's harvest numbers, winter deer yard surveys, severity of winters, hunter success rates, field observations, and others are combined to determine the projected harvest.
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