Thirty years ago, when Maine’s regular deer season for firearms lasted three weeks instead of four, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife published a daily deer-kill chart after the season closed — absolutely fascinating data.

The figures have changed little in three decades.

For starters, the statistics illustrated two points that refute a long-held belief about Maine deer hunting: Except for Saturdays and the two holidays each November, the deer harvest back then didn’t spike much during the breeding time frame in the 11th month, and it still doesn’t.

During Novembers in the early 1980s, harvest statistics statewide didn’t rise significantly when snow fell. The kill made a small bump on IFW’s daily chart during the storm and following day, but that was it — then and now.

Maine does have regional exceptions to the snow rule. In places like Jackman, the deer kill might increase after the first snowfall.

My theory as to why snow influenced hunting in places like Jackman but not in Maine’s bottom third may infuriate many deer hunters: In the north country, darned few Novembers pass without lasting snow cover arriving before month’s end, so hunters there learn hunting strategies for snow and how to dress for winter-like elements, helping them stay comfortable for a full day of hunting.

Southern hunters may not hone snow-hunting skills or even know how to choose suitable attire to stay warm all day. Exceptions exist, but don’t they always?

Not to belabor this point about clothing, but in my early 30s, I taught winter survival to central Maine teenagers.

Until we taught the students, they had little to no clue how to dress for inclement, frigid weather. Their parents were deer hunters and ice anglers, too, but these folks hadn’t mastered winter skills outside ice shacks or away from snowmobiles.

One truth about hunting deer on snow has hit me over the head myriad times. Unless someone pushes whitetails, these wary animals often hunker in conifer thickets during snowstorms and perhaps the following day.

While lying low, they browse on digestible, nutritious, deciduous ground plants, growing in small openings beneath softwoods tangles.

Successful hunters wear appropriate clothes, sneak into thickets and brave snow falling from branches. Less successful deer enthusiasts sit high and dry on hardwood ridges, wondering why no deer signs dot new snow.

In the early 1980s, a young engineer from New Hampshire sent me statistics that debunked the idea that the bulk of trophy bucks fell during mid-November in the seven to 10 days when most does breed.

He had conducted a meticulous, impressive study with the Biggest Bucks in Maine Club figures, which recognizes 200-pound or heavier bucks. His data showed that hunters often shoot big bucks on Saturdays and Veterans Day, but figures plummet on weekdays — breeding time or not.

Back in those years, the three-week deer season opened a week later than now. At the time, the biggest buck harvest usually came on the first Saturday of the deer season (residents’ only day), and the second largest fell on the second Saturday or Veterans Day, whichever came first.

Back then, the third Saturday harvest dropped a little below the second Saturday or Veterans Day, but the fourth Saturday had a small kill jump over the previous Saturday because hunters made an all-out push for that last day of the season.

In those years, hunters could only shoot bucks during the last week, but the harvest figures remained dependent on days when most people didn’t work and got into the forests. The small army pushed these animals around, and of course, moving deer are vulnerable deer.

The engineer charted his figures in a horizontal box to show the daily kill of registered big bucks, making a jagged line. Saturdays and Veterans Day made high peaks compared to the rest of the days. A line across these peaks made a shape like a lean-to with a lip on the bottom.

Now that IFW has added a fourth week, I suspect that the five Saturdays and Veterans Day produce a big kill that also resembles a lean-to.

According to IFW’s deer-kill chart on all ages of deer, Saturdays and Veterans Day also produced the highest harvests, particularly opening day. (I shot deer on opening day seven years in a row, six in early morning.)

If people hunted all day on Thanksgiving and didn’t stop for the feast, the kill that day would probably rival Veterans Day.

One huge exception to this Saturday and holiday rule involves hunter skills.

Knowledgeable whitetail enthusiasts can do well on any day in most any weather because they know deer behavior cold.

That puts the odds in their favor, but for the average hunter, a crowd of them in the woods pushing deer gives them plenty of chances to put meat in the freezer.

Ken Allen, of Belgrade Lakes, is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]