In Houlton at Mac’s Trading Post, Michelle Crane tagged just 18 deer this season as of Monday, a pace not much better than the total of 26 last year.

“I think we’ll come out where we were. It’s better than being worse,” Crane said.

Deer season began Sept. 11 when bow hunters took to the woods and concludes on Dec. 11, following muzzleloader season.

However, for the second year in many parts of Maine the hunting season has been far less successful than it once was, based on reports from tagging stations.

Last year there were 18,045 deer taken by hunters in the fall hunt, a 14 percent decline from 2008 and the smallest deer harvest since the 1930s.

A check with a dozen tagging stations in northern Maine showed that the deer harvest is still down two years after two of the worst winters to hit Maine in 60 years.

The number of deer tagged in many parts of Maine is not much different than last year, which does leave some worried about the statewide herd.

State deer biologist Lee Kantar said he didn’t expect a huge increase in the number of hunter-killed deer this fall as the northern herd rebounds from two hard winters.

“Last year was one of the 60th-mildest winters in Maine, as opposed to the third and ninth worst,” Kantar said.

“The deer had the ability to move around much easier. They had a much shorter yarding period compared to previous winters. … They were moving around three weeks early.”

One positive sign is the number of big deer that have been seen at tagging stations statewide.

“I bet we’ve had at least 15 over 200 pounds,” said Bruce Lamb, owner of Springvale Hardware in Sanford. “In the past we’d have five or 10 or (fewer).”

However, Kantar said that’s to be expected following a mild winter and no indication the statewide herd has rebounded.

Plus, even in southern Maine the numbers of deer tagged are not significantly better than last year when the deer harvest was down statewide.

At Howell’s Gun Shop in Gray, Don Duran has seen 305 deer tagged this year, but he doesn’t think his final number will match last year’s total of 431.

And up north it’s more of the same.

At Bishop’s Store in Jackman, where deer have been tagged for some 50 years, the numbers are not much better than last year, with 36 tagged through Nov. 22 and no sign of being far off the 59 tagged last year.

At River’s Edge Sports in Oquossoc, the total is so low owner Jerry White is circulating a petition asking the state to create a law mandating that young bucks in that hunting district would be left by hunters.

“Currently they have that antler rule in Vermont, and every Vermont hunter I’ve seen said it’s working there,” said White, who tagged 92 last year and 91 through Nov. 22.

Farther north, the tagging station in Eagle Lake saw just one deer last year — and had tagged four by early last week.

In Van Buren at Ouellette’s Trading Post, there were seven deer tagged through Nov. 22 compared with one last year. And at Ben’s Trading Post in Presque Isle, owner Ben LeBlanc said he tagged 47 last year and was up to 54 last Monday. However, other tagging stations around him closed after last year.

“I’m optimistic but I’m also taking deer from a bigger area after other tagging stations closed,” LeBlanc said.

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

[email protected]