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Aroostook Deer Hunting Moratorium Referendum

25909 Views 125 Replies 12 Participants Last post by  aroostookbasser
Would you support a 3 year bucks by permit only season just like with does. To give the bucks a chance to come back? Well me and a few others are collecting signatures starting in bring it to a vote in Maine. We need to do something to let our bucks come back. the current system wipes out the little bucks and the good ones in such numbers..bucks are very few and far between. I see 8 to 10 does for every buck. I'm in the woods 40 hours or more per week. But this moratorium is for Aroostook County only !!!
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Could you be more specific about the details of this idea?

Simple concept: place a three year suspension on open season on bucks and does and have a permit only season on both. Reduce the deer kill by 40 to 50 % of previous year....2006 as benchmark. This would apply only to Aroostook County. Just to see if the deer would rebound. If they did then establish a management plan based on the establish a 4 to 1 ratio of bucks(1) to does(4). The current staus is more like 1 buck for every ten does and half of them are barren. The biologists have already told me those does lost their fawns do to predators. 40 to 50% of fawns die due to predation. THe truth is that if a buck dies in mid rut he never gets to mate with all of the available does. Let alone service those that come back into heat 21 days later due to infertility issues. With buck numbers this low we have a large number of does that never have fawns. Our deer herd reflects this trend in that we have lots of adult does and few yearlings. Where are they if the biologists are correct? We have to be open to try new things....what can it hurt?
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Deer Management

Well, I wasn't aware that the figures you quoted applied to Aroostook County. Those numbers are considerably out of line with the rest of the state. I would have to see hard data before I jumped on that bandwagon although I am for bettering the herd.
The biggest problem I see with this idea is the Gov & Commisioner will turn it into a money grabbing scam just like turkey hunting!
I can buy a Turkey ready for the oven for around $10 but I can hunt one, clean-pluck-prepare it for $20+. And we are polluted with the damn birds!

Your idea may work great but the current administration will find a way to make it statewide moneysucking game.

This is why this state needs to remove IF&W completely from the political process. ONLY then can we properly manage our fish & game.
Are these statistics that you're throwing around supported by anything other than personal experience? Are these hard numbers generated by the wildlife biologists? The north woods provide a difficult climate for the survival of deer thus giving Aroostook County those monster bucks. I don't believe that shooting more does is going to necessarily help the deer population. Again I don't know if your 40-50% predation rate is supported by a state survey or not, but with a high predation rate the more fawns born the more that will survive predation. In my personal experience this season I spent 11 days in the woods up North and saw 3 bucks, 2 does, and 8 fawns.
I have been talking to guides who count on the deer kill to feed their families. The guides and the rest of the hunters who are in the know will tell you that we cannot sustain this hunting pressure. We are killing our big deer before they breed and we are killing the young before they get their turn. We can't win either way. I say leave does as it is and cull as necessary. But reduce the buck kill and save our deer herds before they are gone or stunted by the recessive genes of immature deer.
The question I pose is isn't this trend working itself out naturally? Looking at the past few years the number of hunters in the Northern Maine woods continues to decline. More and more hunters are heading south to Central and Southern Maine to hunt as those areas offer a much greater opportunity of harvesting a deer. In several central Maine districts you are almost gauranteed to get a doe permit and some lucky guys even get a bonus permit. Also, the money that would be spent to try to monitor who has a permit (I'm assuming you propose that deer hunting in Aroostook County become a lottery style permit) will be extremely costly with an already thin spread warden service. I'm playing devils advocate because I just don't see how you will convince the sportsman who has spent his or her life hunting in Northern Maine to jump on board. Especially with the current trend of mild winters that have been experienced up North over the past few years.
Buck to Doe ratios and aging

I have been in contact with Lee Kantar from MDIFW concerning this issue. He has sent me a bunch of stuff of which I am sorting through and compiling more questions - mostly as a learning tool for myself

In response to the information you have provided for us AB, I'll give you a couple of statistics that were compiled for 2005 for Maine WMD 1-6.

The percentage of deer taken in 2005 in WMDs 1-6 that were yearling bucks is:
WMD 1 = 40
WMD 2 = 41
WMD 3 = 55
WMD 4 = 34
WMD 5 = 30
WMD 6 = 41

If you look at let's say WMD 1, the state averages for yearling bucks was 42%. Going along with that the percentage of deer tagged that were 2.5 year old bucks was 24%, 3.5 - 14%, and over 4.5 - 20 percent.

Lee says that WMD is high at 55% and they are watching it closely and working to bring that average back down. He also says these figures very closely resemble those of other states.

The other issue was buck to doe ratios. In Maine, normal ratios of does to bucks runs between 110 does to every 100 bucks up to as high as 200 does for every 100 bucks. This would translate into a ratio figure that would look like this:
1.1 to 1 and as high as 2.0 to 1

As far as WMDs 1-6 this is what the ratio looked like for 2005:
WMD 1 = 1.3 to 1
WMD 2 = 1.3 to 1
WMD 3 = 1.7 to 1
WMD 4 = 1.2 to 1
WMD 5 = 1 to 1
WMD 6 = 1.4 to 1

A couple of interesting things to point out here. Ideally, biologists would love to have a ratio of 1 to 1 but is extremely difficult to achieve. He also pointed out that it was biologically impossible to have a ratio greater that 5 to 1.

I'll have more on this and more than likely I will put together some more information that will be handy for readers to access.

I hope this has helped to answer some questions. I know at one time someone on here was asking about doe to buck ratios in central Maine.
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Finally a topic that we can have a meaningful discussion on................

Ok maybe my point is not based solely on the science of the deer herd biological model. The fact is the deer herds in Northern Maine are shrinking......the lower deer kills reflect that. Now based on personal observation and consensus of twenty or so guides and hunters involved in this referedum idea. We need to get some of the pressure off the bucks in Arooostook County.
The biologists stating that doe to buck ratios are 1 to 1 or 1 to 1.5 is Crap !!!!!!
I will have to collect more data and get back to you on how far off those figure really are. But even a green horn will tell you that just because a deer is a buck does not mean that it gets to breed each year!!!!!! That is what the rut and Dominant staus is all about. So what really counts is "maturity" not just genitals.
The cool thing about our experiment is that any one who doesn't get a permit for Aroostook can go south and help reduce the over-population in the southern half of the state. Everybody wins.
The fact the state will make money on the permits is needed to offset the costs. The costs are minimal........per capita. The benefits could more than outway the BS factor.
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If the MDIFW biologists are using the data that they supplied me and other and they believe it to be accurate, you may have a difficult time convincing them otherwise.

I have no way of substantiating the data that is provided. I do understand that the data they collect is done in a very complex fashion. It is a compilation of information gathered from samplings of deer harvested, to talking with hunters and guides and listening to what they are saying, to going afield during the winter months when deer yard up and a host of other ways including flyovers.

This collection of data having been consistent for several years is what they go on. How accurate it is, I'm not sure. There is a certain "fudge factor" if you well and probably not a good term to use. It is really more of estimating. This estimating is done based on seasonal averages, an educated guess.

Scientists look for any sudden changes in their data to alert them of such.

I will see if I can get more accurate information on deer densities by WMD to see how disparate populations are in the north vs. the south.

This will have to come after Christmas now but I'll put in the request.
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"" The fact is the deer herds in Northern Maine are shrinking......the lower deer kills reflect that. ""

Could it be that folks are just not traveling to Aroostook Co. because of the gas prices? Or the fact there are more deer per square mile in other areas?
Lower kill rates MAY have nothing to do with population, it could have more to do with people have to work more hours these days to make the same money they used to or the human population could be dropping in your area!

""Now based on personal observation and consensus of twenty or so guides and hunters involved in this referedum idea. We need to get some of the pressure off the bucks in Arooostook County.
The biologists stating that doe to buck ratios are 1 to 1 or 1 to 1.5 is Crap !!!!!!""

Maybe IF&W should outright ban all deer hunting in Aroostook county for five years and see what happens! Personal observations and/or consensus of twenty people in a single county, who may or may not have biology degrees, are not how IF&W operates.
Usually thier decisions are based on science and research, which they TRY to do FULL TIME.

I'm not trying to pick on A/B or Aroostook county. I'm just saying be careful what you wish may get MORE than you bargained for!
Good luck.
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As far as what you believe as being "crap" for doe to buck ratios, I can only present you with the information that is available and the same data used nationwide for deer management.

This article might help to better understand how deer ratios are calculated and how in theory it is biologically impossible to achieve a doe to buck ratio greater than 5 to 1.

Here's the article link.

Sex ratio determination:
The sex ratio is a number describing the number of adult females for each adult male in a population. The number includes deer 1.5 years and older (all deer except fawns) and describes the population immediately before the hunting season . When comparing ratios, make sure you are referring to pre-hunt adult sex ratios. These are the ratios biologists most often refer to, and they should not be confused with observed or post-hunt ratios as the latter are nearly always heavily skewed towards females.
How it works:
I often hear hunters, outdoor writers, and even biologists refer to 10:1 or 15:1 doe:buck ratios. These cannot be pre-hunt adult ratios because as long as the deer herd is reproducing, the ratio cannot become more skewed than 5 does per buck. The biological maximum is about 5:1 because even if no does are harvested, 15-20% of the adult females in the population will die each year from old age, vehicles, disease, predators, etc. Also, about 50% of fawns born each year are male (it's actually slightly more than 50%), thus the sex ratio gets an annual correction when fawns are recruited.
A well managed deer herd is more than a good sex ratio. It must also include a good balance of young and mature deer including males. The data Lee sent me that I put up in the previous post -
WMD 1 = 40
WMD 2 = 41
WMD 3 = 55
WMD 4 = 34
WMD 5 = 30
WMD 6 = 41
Indicates the percentage of yearling (1.5 year olds) but taken. That means the remaining percentage was divided up through other age groups.

This is last year's statewide breakdown of percentages of deer taken by age group.
.42 .24 .14 .20

42% were 1.5 year old bucks, 24% were 2.5 year old bucks, 14% were 3.5 year old bucks and 20% were 4.5 year old bucks and older.

It is my understanding that sex ratios and age management mirrors each other quite closely from WMD to WMD across the state. What I don't have yet is population densities by WMD.

There is the politics which is greatly influenced by money that often times drives some management decisions when it comes to managing species like the deer. It has been proven that the any-deer permit system has worked quite effectively as a major tool in deer management.

What throws that permit system in a tail spin is when not enough hunters choose to hunt a specific area and not enough deer are being taken. Overhunting doesn't seem to be a problem as biologists will simply reduce the number of permits in that area.

If MDIFW believed there was a poor management of deer in Aroostook County or any other country for that matter, they would have implemented some changes. What I have heard coming from MDIFW is that they would like to see the overall population of deer in the north be increased. They really hate to do that by restricting hunting because of the snowball effect on that area's economy.

It may be somewhat self-regulating as deer populations drop off, so will hunting pressure. Mild winters will help as much as anything.

The Sportsman's Alliance of Maine has put together some recommendations on changes they would like the MDIFW to consider in the utilization of hunting for deer management.

Here's a link to where you can find SAM's recommendations.

Nothing that SAM suggests deals with too few deer other than talking about predation. (Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that SAM is the know all do all entity in this. I think their suggestions are as much economically driven as scientific.) All SAM's suggestions are in dealing with areas in the south where there are too many deer.

If deer populations in the south and central areas continue to blossom, obviously changes will have to take place. I hope the changes they make take into consideration that if hunters are forced to only be able to tag one deer, more times than not they will take a buck or none at all. To have an effective population reduction, doe population has to be reduced too.

Sorry, I'm getting long winded.
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Thank all of you for entering into this debate............if we are to resolve our troubles for ourselves up here in aroostook we have to have this kind of free exchange.....God Bless America.

When I referred to data being crap......I wasn't targeting the messenger..just the message.
Aroostook county is diferent than the rest of the stae in that it is mainly heavly forested. But not as much as it used to be. In the new open expanses the deer should be flourishing and we should be seeing elevated numbers of deer to show it. The fact is we are not.
In Aroostook County the deer kill figures here are not as drasticly influenced by tourist hunters as in other areas. 1 in 5 hunters who taggged deer in the last few years was from outside the county. Half of them were still Mainers.
So among the resident hunters, most of whom are woodsman and farm folk who live where they hunt. Their observations conducted day in and day out all season and through the harsh winters here. All say that our deer numbers are dropping.......and bucks are in a more drastic decline. Despite the mild winters and reduced Coyote populations.
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Stweedie ....I am sorry for not more directly answering your previous response I will strive to do better in the future. Some of "My" data is from surveys we conducted out in the woods..stopping hunters and asking them to fill out a little survey card. Mostly about deer stats and locational proximity. Without asking for "the Secret deer hole". WE gave out 250 cards and the corrallated the data to get the averages. Compared their observations from last year to this year........both were on the cards. Then armed with this survey we we went around to game registration stations and asked to see the "public" record of deer kills. Then compared those figures this year to the published figures from the same stations over the last 5 years. All records point to the same decline. We are not saying that the whole county is slipping away. We are just seeing a reduction in certain key " public hunting zones".....lumber company lands. The fact is most of our deer are killed out there in the deep woods from Route 1 toRoute 11 on the western side and from PI north to Fort kent and Canada. Southern Aroostook County from Houlton south has never produced the deer as well as these other areas. Not to say that there aren't pockets of huge deer down there.......but with all the farms.....there should be alot more than we have.
We are just a bunch of deer loving carnivores who want to see more deer where we are....... and if it means taking a break for a year or two to promote the future of the herd. I can hunt in the expanded zones and eat does for awhile.
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I didn't think that you were shooting the messenger. I also think that if there is in fact a problem in that part of the county or any or all parts of the county or any other county, it should be addressed. Perhaps your collection of data can be useful to MDIFW.

If I may offer some advice, the MDIFW is not the enemy and if approached from the right perspective, they will welcome your findings and listen to your concerns. Don't expect great things to happen today. It may take time. They may be fully aware of your concerns, etc.

If you want to further this debate here or via the Black Bear Blog, we can get your findings posted and see if we can generate more discussion. It's up to you.
I opened this thread with the idea that we don't know all we need to......we are looking for support of the concept.....that we need more local input in these management decisions. Like when the wild turkey question came up we had public meeting with MDIFW to determine if stocking was going to continue in Aroostook County. I think if we approach this as a group of concerned hunters and try not to polarize the question one way or the other we may get this tried here. ( But I stand by my assertion that 1to1 or 1to1.5 ratio is crap!)
Our initial survey really only asked people to choose a trend........increasing or declining and locational observation data about deer concentration and "migration" data. (Saw them here last year but now they are over here or haven't seem them since.) What we really need to do is create a more concise survey and get the data from more like a 1,000 hunters and woodsman. The larger model might clarify the trends and observational data more accurately.

Care to host the survey? People could print off copies and survey their areas. 100 people at 10 per? Just need to ask the key questions.

This year was huge for beechnuts.........lots of bears in them but where were the deer. Acorns did well to......bears again...few deer in the acorns. Apples did so-so ....again bears up the ying yang.
I would like everyone to have some input here....what do we need to know to show MDIFW nthat we may need to put a lottery on Aroostook County bucks.
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Declining deer herd

Well after reading through most of the posts in the forum, I have to say that I agree and disagree with AroostookBasser. I live and hunt in the extreme northern woods of Allagash and Escourt Maine and have been for 30 years. My brothers and I have been quite successful through the years bagging 200lbs bucks fairly consistently year after year. I must say though that in recent years our success rates have fallen considerably. I can't tell you exactly what the main reason for that is, I'm not a biologist and don't do studies on the overall deer herd, I just live and hunt here!! The deer herd is in bad shape up here. I don't care what any southern biologist says. I know what I see, and my brothers say the same. I don't mean to sound crass, it's just we're tired of the same old state rhetoric. Here's the deal. Every year we keep count of the deer we see during our week long hunt. We are usually 5-6 men at camp, we hunt hard during Thanksgiving week, and our numbers don't lie. This years numbers were the worst yet. We saw 22 deer, 19 of which were does or fawns, 3 bucks, one of which was harvested by my nephew. It was a 2.5 year old 7 pointer at 160 lbs. I'll go back to AB's quote. The buck to doe ratio of 1:1 or 1:1.5 is Crap!!!

True, the numbers we gathered this year could be greatly affected by this years weather but we have had crappy hunting weather before and the number of deer seen were still there. I'd also like to add; never before have we been so depressed by the hundreds of acres that have been butchered by the logging companies. I know that lumber is a neccessity, I work for a paper company, but this tree harvesting is getting out of hand. When the state says that tree harvesting companies are limited to cutting certain tracts of land and that those tracts of land steer clear of known deer wintering grounds, That's BullCrap!!! We've been hunting this land for generations and know where deer yards are...they are cutting the hell out of them. The state has to have better control over these lumbering companies.

Now... With the usual predator losses, loss of deer wintering habitat, usual hunting pressure, and complete disregard for this part of the state by the DIF&W (yeah that's right, I said it) how the hell is the deer herd suppossed to recover without some sort of drastic measures. I think we ought to look into Vermonts proposal of "No Spikehorns". This would limit all hunters to verify that any buck must have at least 3 points to be harvested. It seemed to work fairly well in Vermont. I think that AB has great intentions but It kind of scares me. New Brunswick, Canada which is directly across the border from us here, just reopened their hunting season in this area. They had shut the season to improve the deer herd and figured it would take about 3-5 yrs to have a positive impact, then the season would reopen. That was 12 years ago!!!! I don't know if I'm willing to give up my hunting heritage for that long. I agree that something has to be done, but lets not jump the gun.

We need to improve our deer management and do it quickly. I want my family to continue to enjoy the tradition of deer hunting these great woods for many more generations. I'll support whatever makes the most sense, even if I have to go without for a few years....I think.
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Here's what I will do. I'll contact Lee Kantar at MDIFW and get the data on deer populations for norhtern Maine. This should help in this discussion. If this is in fact the truth, that deer numbers are dropping, then something should be done and I'll do what I can to assist in that endeavor. However........

I don't want to dispute your take on doe to buck ratios. I think we both may be putting too much emphasis on this statistic because it can paint a picture that is not true. Lost said their group saw 22 deer, 19 of which were does or fawns. This doesn't mean the doe to buck ratio is skewed. It means you saw 19 ANTLERLESS deer. According to MDIFW data, just slightly over 50% of fawns are male. If you plug this into the equation, it falls within the range stated. So, let's abandon the ratio arguement for a moment.

It seems that the real arguement I am hearing is twofold. 1). There are FEWER deer than in the past and 2). There aren't as many mature adult bucks.

Lost may be right if a change in antler restrictions was implemented, this could change the make up of adult bucks. If we utilized the MDIFW's management tools, a reduction in any-deer permits combined with antler restrictions could help.

I agree with Lost in that putting a halt to the hunting season could have some serious ramifications that we might not want to endure.

With that said, when I get data back from MDIFW, I'll post it here which may or may not create more discussion.

To AB, I have a question: Does anyone at MDIFW know what your group is up to? If so who? Do you want me to tell Lee Kantar the real reasons I am asking for imput? I don't want to have a negative affect in anyway to your work. My intentions are only to help generating discussion in order to resolve a problem if one exists. Please advise.
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Hey K6,

Just to clarify some of the numbers you revisited in your last post regarding my number of deer counted. When I said we saw 19 does or fawns, out of those 19...6 were definite mature dry does. In other words, no little one with them from the previous spring and not showing any signs of estrous that we could see. Granted we may have counted the same doe a couple of times. 5 does had little ones with them, and 3 were immature bucks with spikes or forks.

The part that troubles me about all this is the mature dry does. The number of lone does in the woods seems to be increasing in this area. Whether it be due to predation or weather or lack of bucks.... It's not a good thing one way or the other.

K6.. see if you can get some good numbers on Vermonts "No Spikes" theory. It seems like the idea may have worked.
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