Old News Archive

October 25, 2006 - Outdoor Report

October 25, 2006 - TRC

Region A- Southwestern Maine

This past weekend, the torrential rain and high winds basically washed out and blew away Saturdayís hunting for grouse, woodcock, and the kidsí deer hunting day. A Saturday in October is to this nimrod a most valuable and cherished time to get outdoors, and I wasnít about to let a little breeze keep me out of the woods. So off I went to visit an old farm site, hoping to get a crack at a wily ruffed grouse. I should have worn my hardhat.

After a while the snapping, cracking, and falling of trees limbs and dead and decayed tops that were the result of the ice storm of 1998 became a bit disconcerting. Realizing the chance of getting nailed on the noggin was pretty remote; I nevertheless picked my travel route with a bit more forethought. I came home empty handed, but content.

At the regional offices we are busy gathering information, materials, and supplies to begin biological data collections and collecting tissue samples from deer to test for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). Trying to get up-to-speed on the latest changes in laws, rules, regulations as well as the latest research findings takes more and more time; anticipating questions from a variety of sources, each of whom has a strong interest, and giving a clear, correct, and concise response for each one is not an easy task.

At the Gray regional office, we have noticed an increased interest in pheasant hunting. This should bode well for the future of the program, which is totally funded by those who purchase a pheasant stamp. Revenues are funneled directly back into the program. In addition, the program would not work without the many man-hours of volunteer work by hunters and road and gun club members.

Please be advised the Department is holding two public meetings concerning the development of a limited moose hunting season starting in 2008 for a portion of southern Maine: (Wildlife Management Districts 15, 16, 23, and 26) Wednesday, Oct 25 at Mount View High School in Thorndike starting at 6:30 p.m., and on Thursday, Oct 26, 2006 at Stevens Brook Elementary School cafeteria at 6:30 p.m. in Bridgton.

-Norman Forbes, Wildlife Biologist Specialist

Region B - Central Maine

This time of year we get several types of nuisance animal phone calls. Early in the fall the most common calls are about homeowners finding little holes that have been dug up in their lawn. This is the result of skunks searching the lawn for grubs. A partial list of food items skunks will consume includes insects, earthworms, grasses, leaves, wild fruits and berries, birdís eggs, frogs, snakes, and rodents. While skunks do not hibernate they still need to put on extra weight during the late summer and early fall for their winter sleep. Their sleep will end in mid-February, when even though spring seems a long way off, breeding season arrives. The breeding season coincides with the increase in skunkís collisions with vehicles, as they cross roads in their search for mates. Should you encounter a skunk while out in your yard at night, back away slowly, and with a little luck you will come away scent free.

The other type of phone call we get during the fall is about high water levels due to the work of beavers. Beavers are busy raising the level of their dams in the fall to reach more trees for food and construction materials. The beavers will even dig canals to improve access to some areas of their flowage. The raised water levels then make it possible for the beavers to float back the trees to a food cache or the dam. The lodge where the beavers live is usually located out in the flowage completely surrounded by water. The beavers need to be able to swim under the ice from their lodge to their food supply, all winter long. The food cache constructed in the fall needs to be large enough to support the colony for the winter. I have seen some food piles 4 feet high and 20 feet across. The larger the colony, the more food that must be stored and the deeper the water needs to be to provide access to it.

A beaver colony usually consists of an adult male and female as well as their yearlings and kits. Kits are the young of the current year and yearlings are the young of the previous year. Three to five kits are born in the spring during the months of May and June. Just before the new kits are born the 2 year olds leave the flowage to start their own colony. Beaver families tend to eat themselves out of house and home over time. When they move on the flowage remains providing wonderful habitat for a variety of wildlife. Our goal in working with landowners and trappers is to manage the location of these beaver flowages or wetlands so they donít include septic systems and roads. Fencing or beaver deceivers protecting culverts from being plugged, as well as trapping are the tools we have to accomplish this task.

-James Connolly, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region C - Downeast

If you are a purveyor of birds with white meat, you may be stopping by the local Hannaford to stock up on chicken on the way home from the hunt. In Maine, you have two options: Ruffed grouse, which are available statewide, or Ring-Necked pheasant, which are available in Southern Maine by means of a stocking program with limited over-winter survival and reproduction. Propagation of pheasants used to be a yearly program for the State Game Farm in Gray. This program was entirely financed by state dollars as federal funds can't be used for propagation. As budgets got tighter, the program was downsized, at the end, it was cheaper for the State to buy adult birds from commercial farms than to raise them. Today the purchase of adult birds are supported by the sale of pheasant stamps to continue the program. In terms of landowner conflicts, fair chase, and the potential for a poor public image of hunting, the former pheasant program was high risk.

The opponents to the pheasant program in the past argued there was a sufficient grouse population to satisfy and disperse upland hunters and that anyone could go and flush some grouse with a little bit of effort. Given the current grouse populations, that would be a tough sell today. Routinely it seems in recent years, grouse suddenly show up more during the deer season. This phenomenon is basically the grouse shifting their habitat needs as the foliage drops off and the herbaceous materials lays down after frosts. The amount of vertical stems are reduced and the grouse become very conscious of being exposed, so this is what seems like the "concentrating" factor. Also, the grouse's diet is shifting from herbaceous material to woody stem buds and catkins.

Time is the great moderator. Patience is the buzz word for all the wives and girlfriends out there that feel they are fishing and hunting widows and orphans. Your season will come. I hardly know of anyone who is as fierce about hunting and fishing when they are fifty as they were when they were twenty-five.

-James Hall, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains

This past Thursday I attended a meeting of the Rangeley Region Guides and Sportsman Association meeting. The focus was on deer, specifically the supplemental feeding of deer in the winter as well as the effects of winter severity on deer, and the management implications. The speakers were Matt Tarr of the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension and our own Lee Kantar, deer biologist with MIDIFW.

The standing room only crowd was treated to two very interesting presentations on how deer in northern New England cope with prolonged periods of cold and deep snow.

The practice of supplemental feeding of deer in the winter has grown greatly over the past 10 years. Matt, a wildlife biologist and forester did his graduate study on the topic of supplemental feeding of wintering deer in New Hampshire. Mattís research findings also support the official position of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which is that the benefits to deer are limited and are greatly outweighed by negative impacts. You can read IFWís position statement by going to our website: www.mefishwildlife.com.

Before you decide to feed deer this winter consider the following:

o Deer are killed and injured by collisions with motor vehicles when crossing roads to visit feeding sites.

o Collisions with deer cause property damage and sometimes injury or death to motorists.

o Feeding lures deer away from natural winter shelter, concentrating them at unnaturally high densities.

o Congregation at feeding sites increases the risk of death from predators, domestic dogs, and disease transmission.

o Over-browsing at feeding sites eliminates natural browse and future winter shelter critical for survival.

o Travel to feeding sites consumes fat reserves needed for winter survival.

o The strongest, most dominant deer often prevent young deer from accessing feed, or getting enough food.

o Luring deer away from natural deer wintering areas may weaken public support for their long-term protection.

o Deer habituated to human handouts in the winter can become destructive backyard pests in the summer.

o Some foods are not digestible. Deer will compete aggressively for scarce, high quality food.

o Supplemental feeding is expensive. Each deer requires 2 to 3 pounds of grain per day, for approximately 100 days.

o Public attitudes towards deer and deer hunting can change if deer are viewed as tame or as livestock instead of as wildlife.

Please support MDIFW programs and efforts that protect, conserve, and enhance deer wintering habitat !

-Chuck Hulsey, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region

People who aren't here through the winter and spring may not be aware of the annual migration deer here and to the north of here make. Telemetry has shown that the distance for some is 40 miles, while for many it is probably a dozen miles.

In spring of 2005, I made these observations when snow cover was patchy on the low ground, but probably still a foot deep on the higher hills; suddenly deer were on the move. On April 19th, I saw 2 deer between home and work another between Rockwood and Greenville, two more near the Passamoquoddy camp and South Branch in Prentiss, fresh tracks 1/2 mile east of the green gate on the road between Pittston and Route 201, one deer 1/2 mi West of Penobscot Brook, tracks next to Mud Brook Road, tracks at the junction with Boundary Road, 2 or 3 deer 1/2 mi east of the North Branch on the Golden Road, another deer midway between Comstock and there, more tracks at North Branch bridge and up the Truesdale Road.

Some of those deer were 8 miles or more from a wintering area, particularly those in Prentiss Township. Other deer were still close to their wintering area. Deer appear to travel straight down gravel roads for long distances in dispersal from winter concentration areas, rather than cross country, which is not the case in the fall. Lambs were still with does.

Once while stopped on a back road for a bag lunch near Cumberland, PQ, I watched as about 20 deer crossed the road ahead one after the other all heading away from the yard during the dispersal period.

-Bill Noble, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region

Yahoo !!! No, Iím not talking about the internet company, Iím referring to the firearms season for deer on the third weekend in October ! Well, at least for deer hunters from 10-15 years old. Saturday was the 1-day youth hunt for deer of either sex. From what I observed and heard from other hunters, participation for the day was very high. Although high winds made for some difficult hunting conditions, junior hunters were out in force. One report, from the southern part of Region F was very encouraging with the youth hunter having several opportunities to bag his first deer, unfortunately he was unsuccessful, but thatís why they call it hunting ! I did see several junior hunters that were successful that day and they seemed very excited about the whole experience. Itís a great opportunity to introduce young hunters to the sport, instill in them the importance of firearm safety, and a day for the adults to get out for some preseason scouting or just enjoy a day in the outdoors.

I have several friends that come up from Pennsylvania for an annual hunt for upland birds and waterfowl. As you probably have realized, grouse hunting, at least in the southern portion of Region F, was very slow. We hunted many coverts that we had in the past with few or no flushes. On Saturday we did get into a flight of woodcock that made for some fast action. This small 15-acre reverting field held about 8-10 birds and was my first encounter with migrants in central Maine this season.

Waterfowl numbers, on the other hand, were very encouraging. We hunted harvested corn fields for ducks and geese and tried a float trip for ducks; both methods produced plenty of opportunities, but not much table fare. If you have the option to hunt waterfowl instead of ruffed grouse over the next few weeks you may want to consider doing so. While hunting the corn fields we observed between 150 and 200 ducks and six to eight flocks of Canada geese. I think we need to make October two months long so we can get in all the bird hunting we want and still do the preseason scouting for deer, get landowner permission to hunt, and sight in the rifle. The residentís only firearms season for deer is less than a week away !

-Allen Starr, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region G - Aroostook County

The first day of the youth hunt brought miserable weather for northern Maine. Iím writing this report while in my truck this Saturday morning with the rain coming down. My rain gauge at the house recorded 3.0 inches of rain in less then 24 hours and the forecast today calls for flood warnings with continual rain and wind. While at one of the better registration stations my hopes are to collect some deer biological data to evaluate the quality of our northern Maine deer herd through age and antler beam diameter. Along with these samples I will be collecting deer heads for Chronic Wasting Disease testing.

It seems that many hunters remained in their vehicle during this rainy morning for only one deer was registered in Mapleton and one deer registered in Presque Isle during the first five hours of the hunt. Two bright spots where young hunters seemed to have success were in the New Sweden and Ashland area where 17 and 22 deer respectfully were recorded. Portage Lake recorded 8 deer by youths. One of the bigger stories for the day was a huge 9 point buck taken by Jacob Wood, a 15-year-old. This deer was taken in Winterville Plt, and weighed in at a hefty 283 pounds dressed weight on certified scales at the Ashland registration station. Congratulations go out to Jacob Wood for one of the larger bucks taken in the state this year.

My assistant and I collected deer biological data primarily from does with only 4 yearling bucks in the sample. Trying to collect deer heads for Chronic Wasting Disease samples proved to be very difficult since all young hunters wanted to show-off their trophy with the heads attached rather then having the biologist cut the head off. I canít blame them, I would rather show my family and friends a nice deer with the head attached rather then headless. Although we were unable to get deer heads, we did get locations of butchers and residents for pickup early in the week.

Nest Saturday is Resident only for deer season and all indications show this year should be an excellent one due to the three consecutive mild winters northern Maine has had.

The bird hunters are continuing to reap the rewards of a good grouse year in the north. Many of the hunters coming into the registration stations discuss the numerous birds theyíre seeing and flushing.

-Rich Hoppe, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Submitted by : Mark Latti
Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
fax 207-287-6395
284 State Street
41 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333

For More Outdoor Information, and Sporting Licenses 24 Hours A Day, 7 Days A Week, Please Visit www.mefishwildlife.com

NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.