The stories statewide the past two years about the harsh winters of 2008 and 2009 and the toll those aberrations in weather took on the deer herd are starting to play out at tagging stations.

In Ashland, once the place to go for trophy bucks, the reports are of diminutive deer after the first two weeks of the firearm season for whitetail deer.

In New Sweden, a petition is being signed to get the state to close the new November moose hunt that flooded the woods with hunters during firearm season for deer.

The reason: The deer being tagged are mostly yearlings, the 1- to 2-year-old whitetails, those spike-horned small ones.

And down south and to the west, two areas locals love to hunt whitetail, it’s more of the same.

“We’re seeing deer weighing 125-130 pounds. That middle group, there are a few, but not too many,” said Dennis Beaulier at Gateway Variety in Ashland.

At Northstar Variety in New Sweden, owner Sara Anderson is so disgusted with the small deer coming in, she and her husband started a petition to stop the November moose hunt.

They have 200 signatures and plan to present it to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Advisory Council this winter, to ask them to change the November moose hunt.

Moving the moose hunt earlier, when it was originally held in Aroostook County, would take moose hunters out of the woods when the deer hunters are out stalking, giving the deer more breathing room.

“Almost everything with the exception of a couple are spike and 4-pointers, they’re all ranging from 110 to 140 pounds,” Anderson said. “They’ve killed off all the big bucks up here.”

The new moose season brings in business, but Anderson said she’d rather go without the extra cash flow to save the deer.

“It’s not about money. It’s about saving the deer. Expansion of the moose hunt is wreaking havoc,” Anderson said.

In Presque Isle at Ben’s Trading Post, Darlene Akaley said they’re a little ahead of schedule with 21 deer tagged as of Tuesday, and the deer look healthy. But the average deer there, too, is about 140 pounds, clearly the 1- to 2-year-old age class, Akaley said.

And at River’s Edge Sports in Rangeley, the deer look good but the count is way down, owner Gerry White said.

River’s Edge has seen a couple monster bucks tagged, like the 8-pointer weighing 266 pounds. Five deer have topped 200 pounds.

But there, too, it’s either big bucks or small yearlings, White said.

“They’re looking real healthy. But we’ve got either over 200 or under 140,” White said. “I’m not a biologist, but it seems like we’re missing (an age class).”

And further south at Audette’s General Store in Winthrop, the number of deer tagged is down to 40, which is far from the 140 tagged there last fall.

Like many places, the bucks are either big or pretty small. One came in weighing 280, but most are about 120 pounds.

And clerks at the store doubt the count will pick up with two weeks to go in firearm season.

But not everyone is worried.

At Middle Road Store in Sidney, clerk Brandon Zalegowski has enjoyed the big bucks and does coming in to get tagged, and he’s encouraged.

“I don’t think it’s doing too bad, the deer herd. I hunt myself and I’ve seen quite a few does out there,” Zalegowski said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: FlemingPph


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