May is turkey season. It’s also baseball season. So much of what we do depends on the weather, and last-minute decisions must be made based on a prediction.

When things go wrong, we invariably blame the weather forecaster, but in my experience they’re usually pretty darned accurate. (I think some people just like to complain.)

Meteorologists don’t make predictions capriciously. They analyze existing conditions, study trends and then make predictions based on probabilities. They’re still subject to the vagaries of non-linear dynamics, but their odds of being correct are far better than your odds of picking the right six numbers in lotto.

Sportsmen can also be more precise prognosticators if, like the forecaster, they analyze past trends and look at existing conditions. Things are always subject to change, but based on what we already know from this winter and spring, we can make a few fairly reliable predictions.

WOODCHUCKS

In the immediate future, this could be a really good season for woodchucks. An early green-up meant you may have missed your first shot at what Bill Murray once referred to as V.C. (Varmint Cong). But that also means an early first cut of hay, and if current conditions persist, possibly two more to come.

Postcut, these subterranean-dwelling rodents will be out in the bare fields seeking succulent new growth, which makes them more vulnerable to varmint hunters.

In addition to filling the gap between spring and fall seasons, woodchuck hunting provides an opportunity for rifle hunters to fine-tune their shooting skills, and bow hunters to practice their stalking and shooting.

It’s also a good way to endear yourself to a landowner, particularly if they run livestock. One misstep in an unseen chuck hole could mean a broken leg and an animal worth hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars having to be put down. They can also be a scourge to farmers and gardeners.

TURKEYS

The early spring also affected turkeys. They were able to get a jump on breeding season and most mature hens should have mated well before hunting season started.

That means spring hunting likely had less of an impact on this year’s nesting. The disturbance caused by hunters being in the woods during nesting season was once an area for concern, when turkeys were scarce.

More recent studies suggest spring hunting, including afternoon hunting, is not a significant issue where populations are healthy.

Barring any prolonged inclement weather in early June, we should be in good shape two or three years down the road.

The immediate future may not be quite so bright. With nearly ideal hunting conditions and a 100 percent increase in bag limits — from one to two toms — the longbeards really took it on the chin this spring.

Don’t expect to find many adult males around this fall. Looking further ahead, the only hope is that folks laid off the jakes this spring and enough will survive and grow to be long-bearded 2-year-olds by next spring. Otherwise, there could be a significant letdown.

DEER

This spring also will influence the deer hunt this fall and in the future. An early arrival gave deer a badly needed and well-timed break.

late winter they’ve depleted their winter fat reserves. The gas tank is on empty.

In some cases it’s a matter of how healthy adults will be and how many fawns will be produced.

In extreme cases, it’s a matter of life and death.

This year’s early spring meant more deer survived the winter. Furthermore, does will be healthier and should drop and rear more fawns.

There should be plenty of young deer around this fall, and hopefully more older deer several years down the road.

However, there still won’t be as many older deer as we were once accustomed to, at least for the immediate future. Deer and hunters are still feeling the effects of two extremely bad winters, and statewide populations are well below what they could and should be, particularly in northern and eastern regions, but even in central and southern Maine.

The state responded with fairly conservative any-deer permit quotas last year, but it has proposed an increase for this fall.

Some sportsmen feel this may be a tad hasty. Deer biologists once had a seemingly uncanny ability to predict and achieve desired harvest levels.

It wasn’t smoke and mirrors though. Like the weather forecasters, they combined past events with recent data to make an educated forecast.

For various reasons, some beyond their control, that has changed. There’s a little more guessing going on.

Let’s hope they get this one right, or the long-term forecast could be gloomy.

 

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: [email protected]