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Brutal winter may curb deer hunt

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Brutal winter may curb deer hunt

Brutal winter may curb deer hunt

Maine wildlife officials have proposed slashing by 23 percent the number of antlerless deer permits issued for 2008 in an effort to help the stateís deer population rebound after a brutal winter.

Hunters would be issued 51,125 any-deer permits ó also known as "antlerless" or "doe" permits ó for the 2008 season under a proposal announced Tuesday by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Thatís 15,150 fewer any-deer permits than were issued by the department in 2007.

Additionally, DIF&W officials want to double the number of wildlife management districts where all hunters ó including bowhunters and young people participating in Youth Deer Day ó would only be allowed to kill bucks.

An any-deer permit allows a hunter to kill either a buck or a doe.

"Itís quite clear that hunting opportunities are going to be quite reduced this year," said George Smith, executive director of the Sportsmanís Alliance of Maine.

DIF&W is taking the dramatic steps to protect female deer in the wake of one of the worst winters to hit Maine in generations.

Department biologists estimate that 30 percent of the deer herd in some areas of northern Maine could die before the snow melts and spring growth emerges. Mortality is expected to be particularly high for the youngest deer and does, which will likely have a ripple effect for years to come.

Much of far northern Maine is still buried under anywhere from 3 to 5 feet of snow at a time when deer have exhausted food supplies and their fat reserves.

Biologists predict that the many deer in northern areas will likely freeze, starve to death or become easier targets for predators because of the enormous snowpack.

As a result, DIF&W Commissioner Roland "Danny" Martin is proposing bucks-only hunting in all wildlife management districts from roughly north of Dover-Foxcroft and roughly east of Eddington and Ellsworth. And for the first time, that bucks-only restriction will also apply to the archery season and Youth Deer Day.

The departmentís advisory council is expected to vote on the any-deer permits proposal later this spring. Public hearings on the issue have been scheduled for April 28 at Greenville High School and May 8 at the Presque Isle Fish and Game Club. Both hearings will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The number of permits is based on a complicated system that takes into account deer population in each district, past harvest figures and predicted mortality based on snow depth, temperature and other factors.

Lee Kantar, the departmentís head deer biologist, said some of the numbers may change as he puts together a more complete picture of the situation based on field reports. But Kantar said he could "pretty much guarantee" that those districts proposed for bucks-only hunting will stay that way.

"Itís not like the winter has gotten any better," he said.

Doe hunting will still be allowed for any-deer permit holders in the following wildlife management districts: 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26 and 29. However, fewer permits would be issued in each district except districts 25 and 29.

Smith of the Sportsmanís Alliance of Maine said he was surprised and disappointed that even Youth Deer Day hunters will be unable to take does. But Smith said all hunters should be concerned about the fate of the fragile deer population in northern Maine due to the record-setting winter.

"Throughout the North Woods, this is extremely discouraging," Smith said.

Post Wed 09 Apr, 2008 7:31 am 
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