AUGUSTA, Maine - As deer hunters ready for opening day, hunters will find the most deer in the southern and central areas of the state, but some of the biggest deer in Western, Northern and Eastern Maine. The regular firearm season for deer opens on Saturday, November 1 for residents, and Monday, November 3 for nonresidents.
"Over 170,000 deer hunters in Maine should find that deer are almost as abundant as last year" said Gerry Lavigne, deer biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW)
Last year was a banner year for deer hunters in the state. Deer hunters in Maine killed 38,153 deer, the highest total since 1968, marking it as the tenth best season ever. The 2002 statewide harvest of bucks was one of the best ever (20,694), second only to the record buck kill of 2000 (21,422). Success rate for all hunters was 22%, up from the 16% of the previous year.
"If normal hunting conditions and hunter effort prevail, the statewide deer harvest in Maine should in the vicinity of 35,800," said Lavigne.
While the winter of 2001 caused the statewide deer population to decline from approximately 292,000 to 241,000, the mild winter of 2002 helped boost the population to 259,000 entering the winter of 2003.The winter of 2003 was more severe than normal in much of the state, although not as severe as the 2001 winter.
Deer populations are highest in the southern and central part of the state, and lowest in northern and eastern Maine due to severe winters, predation and loss of wintering habitat.
The department issues Any Deer permits in conjunction with deer population management objectives set through public input. Any Deer Permits allow the hunter to harvest a doe, and the Department manages deer populations by varying the number of Any Deer permits. This year, there were no Any Deer permits issued in northern and eastern Maine in order to facilitate herd recovery in those regions. There was conservative allocation of permits in western to northern central Maine, while there was a liberal increase in the number of Any Deer permits in central and southern Maine in order to maintain or reduce these populations. The Department issued 72,600 permits among 22 of Maine's 30 Wildlife Management Districts in 2003.
The Any Deer 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 approximately 259,000. 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 objectives in each individual district.
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