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Here’s why state is issuing a lot more any-deer permits

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For Maine deer hunters who plan ahead, this is the time of year to submit your applications for the annual drawing of any-deer (doe) permits. Statewide this year, the Department of Fish and Wildlife will issue about 66,000 any-deer permits. This is 20,000 more doe permits than were issued in 2016 – a 45 percent increase.

Why the significant increase this year in any-deer hunting permits?

Judy Camuso, Maine’s wildlife director, attributes the increase to an increase in deer numbers, especially in central Maine thanks to a relatively mild, “open” winter, which allowed higher reproduction and better winter and early spring foraging opportunities for Maine’s whitetail deer herd.

Some sportsmen, mindful of the struggling deer numbers in specific areas of Maine, have expressed reservations about the precipitous hike in doe permits this year. For example, Mike Look, President of the Downeast Chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) is upset that the department chose to issue any doe permits whatsoever in Wildlife Management District 27, which is an area Downeast that runs from Calais to Sullivan. IF&W issued just 50 doe permits for that area. Look contends that 50 is too many for an area that has been slow to recover its deer numbers. He argues that once you issue even one doe permit you open the door to youth hunters and archers, which could mean a doe take far in excess of 50 in WMD 27.

Look goes so far as to suggest that the sudden turnaround in allocating any doe permits in WMD 27 is not a responsible deer management decision, but an overriding tick control measure.

Asked about Look’s theory, Camuso doesn’t hedge. “Ridiculous,” she says. “ In some deer-rich areas on the coastal islands and in southern parts of the state tick issues may be part of the deer management calculations, but not in WMD 27.” The regional wildlife biologist in that area, Tom Schaeffer, defends his recommendation of issuing 50 doe permits. In certain localities of WMD 27 the deer are coming back. This has led to an increasing number of complaints from blueberry and cranberry growers as well as individuals with gardens. “In the last few years, the deer numbers have been pretty good in parts of WMD 27. Higher buck harvest, a series of milder winters and a nuisance issue has justified a token number of doe permits for a number of years. This was the year to finally do it, after nearly 30 years of bucks only in WMD 27,” says Schaeffer.

The allocation of doe permits is based on a historic and reliable statistical model that is often misunderstood by sportsmen. Harvest models show that it requires 66,000 any-deer permits to generate a doe harvest of 7,000 critters. Camuso cautions critics “not to panic,” that there are still 7 WMDS this year that remain bucks only, and that most of the doe permit allocations in the North Woods tend to be token allocations of 50 to 75.

An interesting aside: A new state law is about to take effect that gives the Fish and Wildlife commissioner, Chandler Woodcock, unilateral authority to impose last-minute doe permits in localized areas where they are warranted. ( Response to tick issues, crop destruction and other considerations).

This year’s 66,000 any-deer permits will be issued by a lottery drawing, which will take place on Sept 8. Online applications are available on the Department’s website: www.mefishwildlife.com. Submission deadline for online applications is Aug. 15. Paper applications must be postmarked by midnight July 28.
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The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books.Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

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