Sitting in my deer stand last Saturday afternoon as the sun sank below the horizon, I knew that sun would come back up on Sunday morning. I’m not so sure about Maine’s deer herd.
Deer have disappeared from the North Woods and their numbers in central Maine are greatly diminished. The outdoor industry that depends on nonresident deer hunters has taken a terrible hit and may not recover.
In a recent WCSH TV 207 interview, I lamented Maine’s two major hunting problems: diminished deer in the northern half of the state, and diminished numbers of hunters statewide.
Where the woods were once full of 250,000 deer hunters, we’ll be lucky to see 150,000 this season.
We’ve also suffered an epidemic of posted land in southern Maine.
And Bucky Owen, the popular former Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, told me not long ago that he thinks, “deer hunting in the north woods is all over.”
When I saw Bucky last week, he was going to his Sourdahunk Lake camp – to hunt birds, not deer.
The deer harvest has plunged from 38,153 in 2002 to 28,884 in 2007 to 18,045 in 2009, a 53 percent decline in just seven years.
Even so, DIF&W increased the number of any-deer permits for 2010 to a total of 48,825. That’s 3,440 more than were issued in 2009, with the largest increase in my home District 16. I don’t think the deer population in my area justifies the increase of 2000 permits to a total of 5,400.
DIF&W’s Deer Biologist Lee Kantar predicts a 2010 harvest of 20,919 deer. We’ll see.