The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is proposing to boost the number of deer-hunting permits to 66,050 this fall, an increase of 44 percent from last year and the most permits issued in a decade.

Permits would increase dramatically in seven of 30 hunting districts, mostly in York County and in central Maine up along the coast to Belfast, where the white-tailed deer herd has rebounded dramatically after two mild winters, said Ryan Robicheau, supervisor of IFW’s wildlife management section.

The statewide deer herd was decimated during the harsh winters of 2008 and 2009, and as a result, the number of any-deer permits, which allow hunters to harvest bucks or does, dropped from an average of 70,000 in the early 2000s to a recent low of 26,390 in 2011. Last year the state issued 45,755 permits, a 59 percent increase from the 28,700 allotted in 2015.

Limiting the number of does taken allowed the herd to rebound, and Robicheau said state wildlife biologists still want to grow the herd in northern, western and eastern Maine. But in some sections of southern and central Maine and along the coast, the goal is to reduce the deer population.

State biologists estimate there are about 240,000 deer in Maine, said Judy Camuso, director of IFW’s Wildlife Division.

“It’s a function of a healthy deer herd in the state,” Robicheau said of this year’s increase in permits. “Deer are highly successful in the reproduction rate and the herd has grown pretty quickly. We see that in biological harvest data that we collect after the fall hunt. In the breadbasket of the deer herd – central Maine working to the south – we really are at slightly above our objective for the deer herd.”

HERD TOO SMALL IN SOME REGIONS

The IFW Advisory Council will discuss the deer permit proposal at its meeting in Caribou in two weeks, and vote on it later in the summer.

Three districts that had no any-deer permits last year would be allotted permits: 50 along the Downeast coast in District 27, 200 to the east of Moosehead Lake in District 9, and 50 in far northern Maine to the east of Allagash in District 2.

“In northern and western Maine we want to grow the herd. We do see some opportunity to issue a small number of permits in these areas to provide hunting opportunity,” Robicheau said.

Over the past 15 years, the success rate for deer hunters in Maine has been about 15 percent. There are more than 200,000 hunting license holders in Maine, but the state estimates only 170,000 to 180,000 participate in the fall hunt. Anyone with a license can hunt for a buck, but only permit holders can harvest an antlerless deer.

Robicheau said many hunters who win a permit in the lottery choose to harvest a buck. State biologists expect no more than 7,000 does to be harvested statewide.

Deer hunting season in Maine, including the archery seasons, firearm season and muzzleloading season, runs from September into December.

DIFFERENCES ON NUMBER OF DEER

Hunter reaction to the proposed any-deer increase was mixed, but many believe the herd needs to be thinned to a safe and healthy level in the southern districts.

Georgette Kanach of Gray, a hunter for 45 years, said she runs her hunting dogs in the woods often, and she’s seeing more deer.

“It does make sense that if we do not control the population they will starve themselves to death, as they will over-eat the area,” Kanach said. “(The herd) needs to be managed or Mother Nature will do it for us with disease and starvation.”

However, Steve Beckwith of Lebanon said that in his travels through York County, he’s not seeing many more deer than a few years ago.

“I have concerns over how IFW is managing numbers in York County for both deer and turkey,” Beckwith said. “I personally am seeing a lot less of both.”

Gary Green of Springvale, a hunter for 55 years, said the concern about Lyme disease and now new tick-borne diseases – such as the potentially fatal Powassan virus – heighten the importance of thinning the deer herd there. And there are other reasons to do so, Green said.

“I’m interested in managing and controlling the deer herd for a lot of reasons,” he said. “When you have an abundance of deer, deer are not healthy, you have more vehicle accidents, they get into crops and shrubs. I’m in favor of the proposal.”

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

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