Thursday, April 24, 2014
YORK — Since 2007 the number of deer harvested in the fall has declined significantly around Maine, except in one town.
A handsome buck is weighed prior to being tagged at Eldridge Lumber off Route 1 in York, one of Maine’s southern communities that autumn after autumn enjoys a productive deer-hunting season.
Photos by Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
Another deer carcass is tagged at Eldridge Lumber, with the venison bound for some lucky hunter’s fridge where it will provide plenty of meat for the upcoming winter..
The town of York has one of the highest deer kills year in and year out, and it's at the very southern tip of Maine, just 60 miles from Boston, .
Here is York’s deer harvest by the numbers. As the state deer harvest has gone down in the past several years, York’s deer harvest has gone up.
Year/state harvest/York harvest
2012: 21,412, 175
2011: 18,839, 163
2010: 20,063, 149
2009: 18,092, 149
2008: 21,061, 146
2007: 28,884, 136
Source: Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildilfe
After two tough winters in 2008 and 2009, the annual deer kill during the hunting season dropped from around 30,000 to 20,000 or fewer, except in one corner of the state, and especially in one town.
This summer a study by this newspaper showed that over the past decade some of Maine’s top deer-hunting locales were in the southern corner of the state in suburban towns like Windham, Gorham and Auburn. A look at tagging station data for the past 12 years proved southern and central Maine towns are where the lion’s share of deer are tagged by hunters in the fall.
But the town of York beats them all.
While the deer harvested in the rest of the state dropped from 28,884 in 2007 to 21,412 last year (and as low as 18,092 in 2009), in York it increased from 136 in 2007 to 175 in 2012.
Wildlife biologist Scott Lindsey said York is a hunting mecca, with the number of deer tagged at registration stations strong year in and year out.
“The deer numbers from the tagging stations in York are always stable,” said Lindsey, the regional wildlife biologist with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in Gray.
Nobody knows that better than the folks at Blaisdell Bros. Family Farm, where the beef farm turns into a wild game processing facility each fall.
“This is part-time for all of us, we have other jobs. But (the deer-cutting business) has been in the family for more than 100 years,” said Tom Blaisdell as he worked Saturday carving a carcass alongside his father, Henry.
A few miles off Route 1, the deer come pouring in to the farm after hunters shoot them in the towns of Kittery, Eliot and South Berwick, and especially in York. While patches of woodland line some street here, most roads are colored by a rolling, pastoral view of homes.
The Blaisdell farm has been a cattle farm since 1772, but turned into a part-time wild-game processing facility as soon as that became part of the culture in York, and then it never died off, Blaisdell said.
“Back at the turn of the last century, most people cut their own deer. But nowadays people are so busy, they like to have it done. In the 1930s my grandfather, James Blaisdell, and my father converted this barn into a wild-game butcher. It’s in the original dairy barn,” Tom Blaisdell said.
“We get quite a few deer each year, especially from bowhunters. We do about 40 to 50 deer.”
At least two other meat cutters in the area do more deer than the Blaisdell family, and every year there’ s plenty of business for them all, Blaisdell said.
All of the deer coming in the past few years looked good, too, he said, fat and healthy.
Trevor LaBonte of York tagged one last weekend, a 5-point buck he shot early last Saturday morning in his hometown. He tagged it at Eldredge Lumber on busy Route 1, just down the road from Stonewall Kitchen gourmet foods.
It was the first deer for LaBonte, 15, a freshman at York High School. But LaBonte, a hunter for four years, said he and his family go to a hunting camp in Hudson every Thanksgiving and he prefers hunting up there.
In the whitetail country just north of Orono the woods are thicker and the density of hunters thinner, LaBonte said. It’s just the deer population is higher in York, which is why so many of his neighbors have success, he said.
“The percentage of hunters is greater up there. It’s just there are fewer people. So we have the woods to ourselves. You don’t see a lot of people. I like that,” LaBonte said.
But LaBonte added, he also liked tagging his southern Maine buck Saturday.
“It’s only 110 pounds, but it’s a nice 5-pointer,” he said.
Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or at:
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Tom Blaisdell carries on a family tradition as he carves a hunter’s deer at York’s Blaisdell Bros. Family Farm, which every autumn becomes one of southern Maine’s most productive deer-processing facilities.