Talk on the porch of the Georgetown County Store this time of year always turns to the abundance of deer in town and the problems – from Lyme disease to collisions with cars – that they cause. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

GEORGETOWN — On any given day this time of year, stories spun by neighbors, working fishermen and eager hunters on the porch of the Georgetown Country Store center on one subject.

There was the local school bus headlight taken out, most likely in a collision with a deer, and the hunter who counted 78 whitetails while he was driving through town a week before. The deer are getting fat now, residents note, and eating the hostas and rosebushes in their yards.

In an effort to thin the swollen population of deer in and around Georgetown and a stretch of land east of the Penobscot River, the state has given out bonus deer permits for the first time this year for the firearm season, which starts Saturday for Maine residents.

Hunters who won a bonus permit in one of the two zones, called deer management subunits, can harvest two deer there: a buck, which anyone with a hunting license can shoot, as well as a doe. Previously, bonus permits were only issued to firearm hunters if there were more any-deer permits available in that zone than there were hunters who applied for them.

“There is a wicked deer problem here,” local hunter Clarence “Chippa” Preble said at the Georgetown store on Thursday. “Too many people in this town have Lyme disease.”

Tori Lewis, 25, and her father, Jim Lewis, adjust the scope on Tori’s gun Friday. Tori and her father always shoot their guns the day before deer season starts to make sure everything is working properly. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographe

There were 270 bonus deer permits issued for the subunit that encompasses Georgetown and Arrowsic – a 25-square-mile area located in Wildlife Management District 25. Another 200 bonus permits were issued in the subunit along the Penobscot River stretching from Brewer to Castine and east to Dedham and Holden, 130 square miles within Wildlife Management District 26.

State Deer Biologist Nathan Bieber said the plan is to issue bonus permits in these areas for five years and then assess whether to continue. If the permits help decrease the local deer population, Bieber said, bonus permits may be issued in other areas with high numbers of deer, such as Deer Isle-Stonington, but in limited numbers.

“We don’t want to have pockmarks of subzones all over the map. We will be pretty discerning in where we use this next,” he said.

Bieber said deer herds often swell on islands that have limited hunting access, such as Georgetown and Arrowsic, both heavily forested islands connected by causeways to the mainland. It’s unclear, however, why the area that borders the Penobscot River produces so many deer, he said, but there’s no question there’s a problem.

“There are so many deer here, we have a special section in the weekly paper on deer hits with automobiles. We get two to five a week,” said Bruce Ashmore in Bucksport, president of the local rod and gun club. “We are definitely excited about the new zone and permit system.”

Any-deer permits, which allow hunters to shoot a doe or a buck, have been issued in areas with high concentrations of deer since 1986. The hope is that hunters will harvest a doe, which does more to thin the herd because it won’t produce young the following spring. Does can give birth to two fawns at a time.

A list of townspeople who have gotten their deer hangs on a door in the Georgetown Country Store. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Doug Kulis, a Georgetown hunter and the district game warden in the area, said the town has a vibrant deer hunting community and the island is heavily hunted, with as many as 150 deer tagged annually at the general store. But deer are still found in large numbers along the coast here.

“I’ve seen my share of car collisions. The population here certainly has increased since I got here in 1994,” Kulis said. “The browse line on the cedar trees is very clear. Nobody in Georgetown can grow a garden without fencing it.”

Kulis said the bonus deer permits have widespread support, and many locals at the Georgetown Country Store on Thursday agreed.

“There are some people in town who used to be anti-hunting that now say, ‘Kill ’em all,'” said George Dufour, Georgetown’s retired harbormaster. “When you shoot one here, three more take its place.”


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