From year to year, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife tinkers with the number of “any-deer” permits it hands out in an effort to meet department management goals.
Harsh winter hard on the deer? Fewer of those coveted permits — often called “doe permits,” or “doe tags” — are issued. Deer population thriving after a mild winter? The number of permits will increase.
With one of those permits in hand, a hunter is allowed to target non-antlered deer, if they choose. Without the permit, hunters are looking for antlered deer, typically males.
This year, the department, with input from biologists, will issue just 28,770 any-deer permits. That’s a reduction of 8,415, or 23 percent, from a year ago. It also coincides with a 24 percent reduction in the DIF&W’s doe harvest objective, according to head deer biologist Kyle Ravana.
“The driving force in permits can be attributed to the now-second winter in a row that was above average in terms of severity,” Ravana said in an email. “The 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 winters were the 14th and 11th worst winters for deer, respectively, since the 1950s.”
Ravana said that last winter, when many parts of the state absorbed snowstorm after snowstorm that piled up feet of snow, an estimated 9.3 percent to 16.9 percent of the state’s deer — depending on region — died.
“The long-term average in Maine is 9.7 percent,” Ravana wrote. “As such, we withdrew permits in order to compensate for a potentially higher level of mortality experienced during this past winter. By doing so, we are providing the deer population with a bit of a cushion to better absorb the increased mortality levels for the year.”
Over the past five years, the level of any-deer permits issued has varied widely as biologists responded to winter conditions and the anticipated loss of deer.
But while fewer permits will be issued, hunters in more of the state’s 29 Wildlife Management Districts will have shots at earning them. A year ago, permits were only allotted in 12 WMDs. This year, permits will be up for grabs in 15.
“We did issue permits to WMDs 3 [which includes Madawaska in the northern part of the state], 6 [which includes Presque Isle] and 14 [near Monson], parts of the state that usually experience no doe harvest,” Ravana wrote.
Ravana said that in WMDs 3 and 6, deer are thought to be overbrowsing their winter habitat, and a slight reduction in does may help sustain healthy habitats for times of the year when deer are particularly at risk.
“[And] although WMD 14 does not appear to be at or near biological carry capacity, regional biologists related that current deer abundance may be approaching social carrying capacity,” Ravana wrote.
Car-deer accidents and nuisance deer eating homeowners’ plants and gardens are two examples of situations that can contribute to a lowering of “social carrying capacity.”
“As such, the department provided a limited doe harvest to [WMD 14] in an attempt to bring the population down to a more acceptable abundance level,” Ravana wrote. “This will be the first hunting season since 2007 that WMD 14 has received an [any-deer permit] allocation.”
If you’re interested in improving your hunting odds and landing an any-deer permit, you can do so at mefishwildlife.com.
If you’re applying by mail or in person, the deadline for the any-deer permit lottery is July 27. Applications must be postmarked by that date or delivered in person to 284 State St. in Augusta before 5 p.m.
Internet applications can be submitted until 11:59 p.m. Aug. 17.