Early data from Maine’s new antlerless deer permit system suggest it may prove effective in culling the state’s deer herd in central and southern Maine.

Last year, the first that antlerless permits were issued in Maine, hunters exceeded state biologists’ goal for killing does. Hunters harvested a record 43,787 deer last fall, including 13,883 does, slightly above the goal of 13,807. It was just the second time in six years that hunters reached the state’s doe-harvest goal.

“For the most part, with all the changes that we made we are pretty pleased with the results so far. But again, it’s just one year and we’ll have to see how things go the next few years,” Maine Deer Biologist Nathan Bieber told the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s Advisory Council on Tuesday.

State biologists on Tuesday recommended increasing deer permits this fall by 12% to 108,070. The increase of roughly 12,000 permits is based, in part, on steady growth in the deer population in central and southern Maine, where an abundance of deer poses a public health risk because of a rise in cases of Lyme disease. The hope is that, in time, the deer permits issued will be more consistent after IFW gathers more years of data, Bieber said.

“Until we start seeing trends reverse in some areas, we’ll continue to apply pressure,” Bieber said of the proposed 12% permit increase.  

State biologists estimated Maine’s herd in 2022 at 360,000 to 370,000 deer – up from an estimated 280,000 to 300,000 in 2021.


Doe harvests have averaged 10% below the state’s goal over the past 15 years, and 18% below the state’s objective from 2016-21, Bieber said.

IFW Advisory Council members praised Bieber for the initial success of the new permit system.

“That’s phenomenal,” said council member Michael Gawtry of Yarmouth. “Very impressive work. I think it underscores the confidence that we should have for what you’ve put forth for the new target for the new season.” 

Hunter Mark Mayone of the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club was pleased when told of the doe harvest report. A deer hunter for 23 years, Mayone said there’s too many deer around the club in Cape Elizabeth. He’s hit deer while driving to the rod and gun club and seen them walking around the club – even around the firing range, where hunters prepare for the deer hunting season.

“That really sounds promising. It seems IFW made the right call with this one,” said Mayone of South Portland. “The deer population is way too large. I work over at the club a lot. It’s a common occurrence if I go to the club seven nights a week to see deer four of those nights.”

The state rolled out its new deer permit last fall, allowing hunters to take a doe as well as a buck in hunting districts with high deer densities. Previously, the state used the any-deer permit system first instituted in 1986, which allowed hunters who won a permit in the annual lottery to shoot a single deer of either sex. Hunters who did not win or want a permit could only harvest a buck. 

The new “two-deer” permits issued last year in the lottery also came with a fee for the first time: $12 (plus an agent fee). The proceeds from that fee – more than $1 million in 2022 – go to a deer management fund to help the state purchase and protect deer wintering areas in northern parts of the state. 

Also at Tuesday’s meeting, the council approved state biologists’ proposal to issue 4,105 moose permits in the 2023 fall moose hunt.

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