“You get your deer yet?” is a common fall greeting in Maine, much like “How they biting?” in the spring or “How was your garden this year?” in late summer.

But long before the November deer season rolls around, the state holds a random computerized drawing (lottery) to determine which hunters will receive an any-deer permit (ADP). Successful applicants have the option of shooting either a buck or doe, while the rest must look for at least three inches of antler before pulling the trigger.

Over the years the once-simple system has become a bit more complicated and now involves five stages:

Stage 1 is just for holders of a Superpack license. Originally conceived and presented as an all-inclusive license that incorporated all necessary tags and permits for fishing and hunting, the Superpack was subsequently honed down to include most – but not all – tags and permits. The most notable extraction is an either-sex expanded archery permit.

Nonetheless, purchasing the pricier Superpack entitles holders to be entered into this first stage, wherein successful applicants receive up to 2.5 percent of the available permits, but only in wildlife management districts (WMDs) with at least 3,500 available permits. This year that was eight of the 22 WMDs for which there were ADPs available. A Superpack deer permit allows the holder to take one antlerless deer in the prescribed WMD, in addition to their regular annual bag limit of one deer. If available permits exceed applicants, unallocated permits are transferred to the regular ADP lotteries.

In years past it was possible for those receiving a Superpack ADP to also receive a permit in some other stages, but the state also pulled that rug out from underneath.

The second stage rewards qualifying landowners with up to 25 percent of the ADPs available in each WMD. When this idea was initially proposed there were complaints of favoritism. But those arguments fall flat when you consider that more than 80 percent of the forested land on which we hunt in Maine belongs to somebody else, either a private or corporate landowner, or non-government agency.

They pay the taxes and they let us hunt so they ought to be entitled to a little bonus. To qualify, applicants must own 25 or more contiguous acres of agricultural, forested or undeveloped land that is open to hunting. There are a few other particulars but that’s the gist of it. Here again, any surplus ADPs filter down.

Stage 3, a more recent addition, is for junior hunters. In this stage youngsters 16 and under receive up to 25 percent of the ADPs still available in each WMD. The rationale is that by boosting their odds of a permit you also increase their chances of experiencing a successful hunt; ADP holders experience about double the success rate of those hunting for bucks only. And by giving them a more positive experience you increase the likelihood they will continue on with the hunting tradition. Believe it or not, some folks complained about this as well.

Anything left at this stage – Stage 4 – goes into the regular lottery, which is open to any hunting license holders. Applicants may choose from any of the WMDs in which ADPs are available; again, 22 this year. Hunters may apply for up to three WMDs.

The idea here is that if there aren’t sufficient ADPs for your first choice, the place where you do most of your hunting, you still have a chance to draw in another WMD where you might also want to hunt.

If, after all that, there are any remaining ADPs, they go into Stage 5: the bonus any-deer lottery. Like the Superpack ADP, this is for an antlerless deer in addition to the buck that is granted by a Maine hunting license.

There aren’t many issued and for the most part are only issued in ADPs where dense human and deer populations conflict – fewer folks hunt and deer numbers are above population objectives.

One more facet of the system that can be used to encourage youth hunters, or any hunter for that matter, is the ability to transfer a permit to another hunter. When my kids were still junior hunters, I always transferred any Superpack or bonus ADPs I received. Also, successful applicants may swap ADPs between WMDs.

All in all it’s a pretty good and fair system but with imperfections. And there are always those who will take advantage of imperfections. Some folks apply for ADPs in WMDs where they have no intention of hunting, but figure they have better odds of drawing a permit, which they will then try to swap.

If they succeed in swapping, both parties benefit. If they fail, then someone who legitimately wanted to hunt for any deer in that WMD is denied the opportunity.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]