Maine’s new antlerless permits, which allow hunters to kill a buck and doe, resulted in a deer harvest record during the fall season. This fall’s preliminary deer total of 41,875 exceeds the previous record of 41,735 set in 1959, Portland’s Courier-Gazette reports. The regular firearm season for 2022 ended on Saturday, November 26th at dusk. However, the muzzleloader season will end on Saturday, December 10th.
Jim Emerson, residing in Corinna, expected the record harvest. Emerson, who resides in the most successful hunting district this fall — Wildlife Management District 17, northeast of Augusta — stated that he saw an overwhelming amount of deer, as did his friends and neighbors. “It doesn’t seem that big of an increase from (nearly) 39,000 (in 2021) to 41,000,” Emerson explained. “But a lot of people didn’t shoot two deer. What are they going to do with them? I think a lot of people think that way. They were happy to get one, they didn’t really try to get two.”
For the second year in a row, many bucks and does were killed during hunting season. Reportedly, last year’s number of 38,947 was larger than any other kill rate since 1968. The deer population in Maine is estimated to be 320,000 statewide. However, the number of deer per square mile ranges from one or two in northern Maine to up to 40 in southern and central Maine.
The deer permit sales go towards maintaining their habitat
The Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife introduced a new antlerless permit this fall in order to decrease the deer population in southern Maine. With this permit, hunters are allowed to shoot one doe and one buck only instead of having to choose between the two, as was required with the former any-deer permit. Also for the first time, leftover permits from the deer-permit lottery can be purchased for $12.
David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said that the new permit has made southern Maine hunts more exciting. However, he believes there should be a balance of a healthy herd and hunting opportunities across the state. “When you go north, east or west, the population is way down,” Trahan explained. “I’d love to see us get to 10 to 12 deer per square mile in northern Maine. I believe we can.”
Trahan said that the sales of new permits go toward buying and taking care of areas where deer live. This will help the herd numbers in northern Maine to increase. The number of any-deer permits began to reach unprecedented levels a few years ago. Around 85,000 in 2018 and 110,00 were sold in 2020. Last fall saw the highest number yet at 154,000. State biologists explained that this was an effort to reduce the herd population in southern Maine; having too many deer increases the spread of Lyme disease which is a public health concern.
A small fraction of deer are taken in Maine during the archery and crossbow hunting seasons. The November firearm season is when most deer are harvested, said Maine Deer Biologist Nathan Bieber.