By Gordon Whittington
Well over a century has passed since Maine began earning an enviable reputation in the whitetail world. From the earliest days of recreational hunting, it’s been a favorite destination of New Englanders and others who enjoy the pursuit of venison and antlers in wild woods.
Even now the state’s remote northern and eastern counties remain places of high adventure but low deer numbers: in most areas, in fact, there are fewer than five per square mile. But southern and central Maine have become much more heavily populated in recent years, with some districts now holding up to 35 deer per square mile. Such densities have led to increased human-deer interaction and a call for reducing the herd.
In response to this population boom, for 2020 the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Advisory Committee unanimously approved biologists’ recommendation to sell a record number of any-deer permits. In approving 109,900 of them for sale, the state far exceeded the 68,145 issued in ’19 and even jumped up 30 percent from the previous record of 84,745 issued in ’18. A number of districts have been allocated in excess of 10,000 permits. The annual drawing for permits was under way as the November issue went to press.
Maine’s total current whitetail population is estimated to be around 300,000, or roughly double what it was in the 1960s. This fall, biologists were intent upon reaching a statewide doe kill of 13,000. While this number seems modest, given the total number of deer in the state, it would more than double last season’s recorded harvest of 6,200. That fell far short of the target number of 7,966 does.