PORTLAND – This year’s deer kill in Maine likely will total around 35,000, an increase of 11 percent over last year and the largest harvest since 1980, according to the state’s preliminary estimates.
And for the first time, the number of bucks killed is expected to top 20,000, said Gerry Lavigne, deer specialist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
A final tally will not be available until February, but Lavigne based his estimates Thursday on reports from regional wildlife biologists, who checked about 9,000 deer at meat lockers, tagging stations and hunter checkpoints.
Although Lavigne expects the 2000 harvest to be the largest since hunters killed 37,255 deer in 1980, the total still would fall short of his forecast of 39,863.
Maine’s deer population is estimated at 331,000, a historic high. A record 75,525 any-deer permits were available this season, giving more hunters a chance to shoot either a buck or a doe and increasing their chance of success.
Lavigne believes the buck kill will come close to his preseason forecast of 21,325, but the doe kill will fall considerably below the 18,538 he hoped to see.
“We wanted to get 60 to 65 does for every 100 bucks, but we’re looking at 50 instead,” he said. “The reason? It’s not a shortage of deer, not a shortage of does. People are still hunting hard for bucks.”
The deer firearm season ended Nov. 25; the extended archery and muzzleloader season runs through Dec. 9.
Reports from biologists indicated that the number of deer taken in central and southern Maine increased 15 to 25 percent over last year. About 20 percent more bucks came through the Greenville checkpoint, Lavigne said.
“Overall, what this means is that northern Maine deer fared a little better last winter and hunters were able to capitalize on it,” he said.
“In central and southern Maine, the deer population will continue to grow. This bodes extremely well for hunting opportunity next year.”