The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s (IFW) recently proposed changes to Chapter 16 rules which will affect the antlerless deer permit system. The National Deer Association (NDA) submitted comments in support of the proposed changes, and we encourage our Maine members, supporters and hunters to submit comments in support, too. The proposed rules will work in conjunction with recently-passed legislation to change any-deer permits to antlerless deer permits. This change will allow Maine hunters who obtain (via lottery or over-the-counter) a permit to harvest both an antlered and antlerless deer – a major change from the either/or system currently in place.
A public hearing on the proposed changes will take place on Monday, May 2, 2022 @ 4:00pm at the Camden National Bank Ice Vault, 203 Whitten Road, Hallowell, ME. Those interested in providing comments without attending the hearing can submit them electronically by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by sending postal mail to Becky Orff, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, 41 State House Station, 353 Water Street, Augusta, ME 04333.
The harvest of antlerless deer is incredibly important on multiple fronts, including herd, habitat, hunter and disease management. Deer densities have soared in the southern part of the Maine, significantly and negatively impacting habitat. Even more, portions of the state with the highest deer densities have the highest national incidence of Lyme disease – a bacterial infection transmitted by the bite of deer ticks. Only once in the last decade have antlerless harvests met IFW’s goal, and recent years have seen antlerless harvests missing the mark by around 30%. The current any-deer permit system is also under-utilized – only about 50% of Maine hunters enter the lottery, and recent increases to permit quotas did not boost participation or antlerless harvest.
Meanwhile, other parts of the state have seen declines in deer populations. Parts of northern Maine have seen declining populations over the last two decades, in part due to poor wintering habitat. Fees generated from the new antlerless permit system will ensure that the Deer Management Fund can be effective at purchasing and managing critical wintering habitat in parts of the state where herds are struggling.
Undoubtedly, the deer hunting tradition and industry in Maine has deep and widespread roots, and ensuring herds are managed as close to objectives as possible is critical for continued participation. Harvesting more antlerless deer and providing necessary habitat are huge strides in the right direction.