AUGUSTA – Maine’s 2003 deer harvest totaled 30,313, well below expectations, and biologists said last November’s rainy, warm and windy weather was a major factor.
Last year’s kill represented a 21 percent drop from the 38,153 in 2002, which was the highest since 1968. Last year’s preseason prediction was 35,800.
“Poor hunting conditions, caused by last November’s unusual weather, coupled with low hunter effort during the firearms season, was the primary reason for the lower deer kill,” said Gerry Lavigne, deer biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
While the rain kept some hunters from going out, a lack of snow made it difficult to track the elusive whitetail. By contrast, the 2002 season was snowy and cold.
Of the 30,313 deer tagged last year, 25,663 were taken during the regular firearm season. Bow hunters took 2,464 during the regular and expanded archery seasons, while muzzleloaders took 1,359; and 827 were taken during youth hunting day.
The kill during the regular four-week firearms season dropped by 26 percent, while the four other seasons each registered an increase.
The harvest of antlered bucks was 16,185, a 22 percent drop from last year and the lowest buck kill in a decade.
The season was among the safest in memory, with no fatalities reported and only five hunting-related injuries. There were concerns that new legislation allowing hunters an additional half-hour after sunset to hunt deer would lead to more injuries.
Maine’s statewide deer population following the hunt was estimated at 230,000, or 7.9 deer per square mile, an 11 percent decline from 2002 that was attributed in part to the severe winter that followed.