Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Deirdre Fleming firstname.lastname@example.org
VASSALBORO - Just across the Kennebec River from Maine's capital, in the midst of a developed part of the state, hunter Julius Koenig and his neighbors love it when deer season rolls around.
Julius Koenig is a Maine Guide and hunter. His hometown of Vassalboro has some of the state’s highest turkey and deer populations, often making it the No. 1 hunting town in Maine.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
Farmland on Dunham Road in Vassalboro is posted as private property. Wildlife biologist Keel Kemper, who lives in Sidney, between Augusta and Waterville, says he has seen more outdoorsmen seeking landowner permission for hunting privileges.
In Vassalboro, where some of the state's highest turkey and deer populations exist, plenty of both are taken by hunters each year, and often make Vassalboro the No. 1 hunting town in Maine.
In fact, the biggest hunting towns in Maine are not up north in Aroostook County, nor in western Maine or even around Moosehead Lake. A vast percentage of all big-game animals hunted in Maine -- white-tailed deer, moose, wild turkey and black bear -- are taken in the southern quarter of the state.
A Maine Sunday Telegram analysis of 12 years of tagging station data found that Maine's biggest hunting towns are in the southern quarter of the state, where 65 percent of the population resides.
Close to half of all big-game animals killed by hunters since 2000 were registered with the state between York County, just an hour from Boston, and the midcoast, as far as Waldo County. As much as 45 percent of all big game were tagged in this southern quarter of the state, belying the notion that the hunting culture in Maine exists primarily up north.
Of the top 10 hunting towns in Maine, nine are in southern and central Maine. York, near the very southern tip of Maine, ranks No. 10.
The fact is, a robust hunting culture exists in the southern half of Maine, as proven by the number of big-game animals taken by hunters there.
Moreover, in that area a hunting ethic has evolved based around hunters asking permission and securing access to private land to assure hunting can continue in the most developed part of Maine.
In northern Maine, traditionally, large private landowners have allowed hunters to use their land without permission. But in the southern half of Maine, hunters have developed new habits to adjust to the landscape.
"Vassalboro is really tricky. It's heavily posted and there is not a lot of public access. It can be quite challenging to hunt in Vassalboro," said Koenig, 27, a hunter of 15 years. "I'm blessed because my mother has a farm that I've always been able to hunt on. But it would be very challenging to go into Vassalboro and find unposted land and not be confronted by a landowner.
"It's almost a yellow-brick road of posted signs."
Nonetheless, at the regional wildlife offices across Maine, state biologists say Maine's hunting culture not only exists in the southernmost part of Maine, but thrives.
"People think we're just a bunch of city people down here and it's all developments and shopping malls. And that represents a fair part of the region. But there is plenty of undeveloped land in southern Maine. There is plenty of hunting, and a very strong wildlife population. I see it in every town I go into," said regional biologist Scott Lindsay of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife's southern office in Gray.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
That over the past decade, nine of the top 10 hunting towns registering big game were in the southern quarter of Maine is a fact state wildlife biologist Keel Kemper considers with pride.
"This is where it's happening," said Kemper, who is based in Sidney, between Augusta and Waterville.
Deer and turkey accounted for 85 percent of all big game taken by hunters in Maine in the past 12 years and largely populate this southern quarter, with more than 20 deer per square mile.
By contrast in northern Maine, where white-tailed deer are at the northern end of the species' range, deer exist in smaller numbers -- as few as one to three per square mile, said Rich Hoppe, the state wildlife biologist in Ashland.
(Continued on page 2)
click image to enlarge
Vassalboro, seen here on the north side of town looking south along Route 201, had 3,312 big-game kills from 2000 to 2012, making it the top hunting town in Maine for that period.