This fall many of the bucks rolling into tagging stations statewide broke that much-desired benchmark of 200 pounds.

Before deer season ended Saturday with the conclusion of the muzzleloading hunt, the big buck buzz filled many tagging stations.

“If they drove by and saw the deer in the back of the truck, they’d stop and talk with whoever had shot it. Men make a big deal about some things,” said Tammi Winchenback, manager of Pushaw’s Trading Post in Hope.

This year at Pushaw’s nine 200-pounders were tagged compared to the usual one or two, Winchenback said.

“Sometimes we don’t see any,” she said.

But what it means may be less exciting than the hoopla and cameras around a 260-pound buck – like the one taken out of Libby Camps in Maine’s North Woods.

Maine deer biologist Lee Kantar said it’s not a surprise, given the mild winter last year and the chance deer had to move, eat and get fat.

Last winter was the mildest in 30 years.

Still, at some tagging stations that have been around that long, people view the crop of large bucks taken in this fall’s hunt as weird and most have their theories as to the causes.

Bruce Lamb at Springvale Hardware in Sanford said he saw at least seven bucks over 200 pounds, with the biggest 237 pounds. Most years, Lamb said he sees half that number.

Dennis Beaulier saw a ton of big bucks this winter at his tagging station in Ashland. He tagged 50 deer at the Gateway Variety Store, and about 18 weighed more than 200 pounds.

Beaulier thinks it’s because the coyotes kill the younger, weaker deer. So hunters who have success are only seeing the big bucks, because the older age classes of deer are most visible during the hunt, Beaulier said.

“Ten years ago, the herd was in trouble. We tagged 82 that year. There was a big portion of them that were 200 pounds,” Beaulier said. “That’s what happens. That’s what I’ve seen, working here 18 years.”

Ben LeBlanc at Ben’s Trading Post in Presque Isle said nearly 30 percent of the deer he tagged were over 200 pounds.

LeBlanc saw 69 deer, and around 20 were over 200 pounds. Two years ago, by comparison, he tagged 147 and 14 were over 200 pounds.

LeBlanc said it was just the mild winter last year that helped the deer, and he believes the herd needs a respite from the hunt to grow.

But Matt Libby at Libby Camps outside Ashland is more hopeful.

He said in his 50 years running the camp, he never saw so many big bucks as he did this year, after tagging seven deer over 200 pounds.

“We did really well for the few amount of hunters we had,” Libby said of the 30 hunters who used his guides.

It’s a good sign for deer camps in northern Maine, Libby said.

He also credits the mild winter and the dry summer that allowed deer to start getting fat early and keep on feasting right into fall.

But Libby hopes it also means there is a “seed” to grow the deer herd back.

“Going into this fall, the talk around camp was if we don’t shoot any deer, we’re down to 30 hunters, and if those 30 hunters aren’t coming back, we would consider closing for deer season. Luckily, we had a good year,” Libby said.

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

[email protected]