The 30th annual State of Maine Sportsman’s Show will be bigger than ever, with a special program on one of the state’s biggest outdoor topics this year: the struggling northern deer herd.

But the show won’t have a state deer expert at its featured program Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center.

State deer biologist Lee Kantar said while he was invited to attend and sit on the panel for the Save Our Deer Day program, his supervisors decided he should not attend.

Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Roland “Danny” Martin said Wednesday Kantar could not attend the seminar because of staffing issues.

“Because of limited resources and timing, we collectively decided not to participate in it,” Martin said.

However, Kantar is speaking about deer elsewhere this week.

“I am giving a talk tonight. The title it was given is, ‘Where are all the deer?’ I told them that’s not (the specific subject) I’ll be speaking about,” Kantar said Wednesday regarding his appearance at the Monmouth Rod and Gun Club.

Sportsman’s show director Harry Vanderweide was confused by the department’s lack of participation. He said northern Maine’s struggling deer herd is the single most important topic to sportsmen today.

“We think it’s a great opportunity to talk to the hunting public, and if for some reason they choose not to, I don’t know what to make of it,” said Vanderweide, editor of The Maine Sportsman magazine, which stages the show along with the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. “I don’t know why they wouldn’t send someone. We have a very serious problem and I think the public is interested in this.”

The dwindling deer herd in northern Maine, where back-to-back winters resulted in increased deer mortality, has been a big topic in hunting circles, particularly in that part of the state.

DIFW wildlife biologist Rich Hoppe in Ashland said the deer fared better this winter, but their numbers are still low.

The problem inspired the creation of the Aroostook County Conservation Association a year ago. The association already has planted clover to help supplement wild deer feed and held a coyote hunting contest to help decrease predation on deer in the winter.

Certainly, DIFW biologists will attend the sportsman’s show, manning a booth alongside dozens of vendors, guides and outdoors groups. And Martin said they can field questions about deer at their booth.

As for the special deer panel discussions on Saturday, Vanderweide said there will be several other deer experts, and he said solutions to the struggling northern deer herd may well be in a grass-roots effort beyond government’s financial capabilities.

The annual show packs more than 100 seminars and 130 booths into three days.

In 30 years, the show has grown to include not only taxidermists, wildlife artists, free fly-fishing lessons, field trial demonstrations and ATV courses, but it also has lessons on woodcarving, kayak fishing, fly tying and more.

 

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]