Old News Archive

November 14, 2006 - Outdoor Report

November 14, 2006 - TRC

Region A- Southwestern Maine

Regional staff has already examined hundreds of deer as part of our annual data collection efforts. As expected, hunters that are most familiar with their environs are seeing deer regularly. Though white-tail deer are not considered territorial outside of the fawning period, they do occupy home ranges. This is an adaptation that allows for food partitioning and predator evasion. Radio telemetry studies indicate that the home range of does averages 1-2 square miles and doesn’t deviate much, seasonally. The home range of bucks is larger to begin with and can expand 4X during the rut. These seasonal journeys can take bucks into areas they may not be as familiar with. Thus, if you are seeing does an area, it is quite likely several bucks will come to investigate over the course of the season.

All the deer I have seen in the meat lockers have abundant subcutaneous fat on the shoulders and hip. This deposition of fat occurs in the fall and is triggered by changes in the hormones that regulate fat metabolism. Deer build up this fat reserve and utilize during the long, northern winters when browse is of poor quality. Studies on deer nutrition indicate that deer do not “bulk up” prior to the onset of winter, as bears do. Deer begin feeding less and reduce their heat production. After the rut, they will assume a more sedentary life and many in the north begin short seasonal migrations to deer wintering areas. Bucks are physically compromised post-rut, but the biggest challenge is late winter early spring when their metabolic engines fire up again in response to increasing day length. When this coincides with severe late winter conditions, mortality can be high for all age classes. This can also make them more susceptible to predation late winter/early spring.

Though deer hunting may be front page news now, don’t overlook the opportunities for waterfowl hunting in Region A. The north zone, north of Route 11 is still open, while the south zone, south of Rt. 11 reopened on Monday, November 13. Inland, there is good gunning at Brownfield Bog Wildlife Management Area in Brownfield and the Little Androscoggin River in the Oxford area. Along the coast, ducks are quite numerous at Scarborough Marsh Wildlife Management Area. Beaver trapping season opens on December 1 in WMD 15 in the northwest part of the region and December 15 elsewhere in Region A.

-Scott Lindsay, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region B - Central Maine

In Region B during the course of a deer season we will look at over 2,000 deer. This gives us a great look at the deer harvest in our region as well as the state as a whole. We spend a lot of time examining the yearling or 1.5-year-old deer each year. During the first week of the season, I examined a 2-point yearling male from Bingham. The deer weighed 136 pounds and had an antler beam diameter of 17.2 millimeters (mm.). This is a slightly below average yearling male for Wildlife Management District (WMD) 17. The same day I looked at two 7-point yearling males from Belgrade and Readfield with antler beam diameters of 23.2 mm. and 24.1 mm respectively. Granted, they were not massive racks but there was a distinct difference in these three deer. This past week I looked at a 2-point yearling male from Clifton with 16.8-mm.-antler beam. However, the one thing I have learned over the years is that while there are differences in the average yearling male for each WMD there are exceptions to each as well.

That often leads to the question of where the best deer hunting is. I can never answer that for an individual because so many things go into that. How you hunt, how much time you want to put into it, what you want out of it, and what kind of a challenge you are up for, are all factors that enter into it. Everywhere I go in Central Maine I hear some people say things are great and a few will say that things are not. So, I can only conclude that hunting is like a lot of things in life, it is what you make of it. Your attitude and preparation will determine a lot of what you take away from your hunt. As for me I spend every day during the entire regular firearms season for deer, excluding Thanksgiving Day checking deer. On the parts of days when I am not looking at deer I’m filling out paperwork in the office or spending time with my family. Yesterday, I spent the morning checking my deer lockers and the afternoon on the climbing wall at the University of Maine with my Boy Scout Troop. In the evening I finished checking my deer lockers and measured my 641st deer this season. I also got a great sample for our monitoring effort for Chronic Wasting Disease from Reed Plantation up in WMD 11. It was all in all a very successful day in the life of a biologist.

-Jim Connolly, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region C - Downeast

If your bones don't creak enough to remind you that you are old and out of date, just look around your cellar and garage at your sporting equipment. When you mention some of the things that you considered standard and modern equipment and you get blank looks from people, you know you are outdated. Some of these items are bamboo fly rods, salmon tailors, one wheeled deer carriers, cork decoys, cutts compensators, scull and layout boats, and wool clothing. MEC reloaders were common and everyone used to pool a trip to Kittery Trading Post to buy a years supply of lead shot. The requirement of steel shot and the increase price and availability of reloading components has drastically reduced the amounts of "home loads" that there once was. You are telling your age when you recall when all shotgun shells were paper hulls. Memory plays tricks on you, but it seems pickup trucks weren't as popular in the 1960's. I remember seeing what seemed to be a mass exodus of deer and Xmas trees heading out of state tied to cars going down the turnpike.

The climate surely seems to have changed over the years as much as the equipment. We are in the third week of November and the grass is still green, there's no frost in the ground, angle worms are still out and flight woodcock are still moving through. Not to mention the nightly ritual of de-ticking your dog. Within the last week the first groups of buffleheads have been showing up and a few flocks of golden-eyes on the large lakes. All this wet weather has been hard to keep the land traps working. And fluctuating water levels, except for float sets, putting the water trapper out of business. The early beaver season has given the trappers more opportunity for ice free trapping, and it remains to be seen if this increases the total catch or just changes the timing of the same catch.

Trying to understand the deer population downeast, as reflected through the deer kill, is subject to many factors, some of which are hard to determine. One of these is hunter effort. Many downeast hunters carry a gun with them looking for that incidental deer while working or traveling. I believe much of it comes down to a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people see more deer they will hunt more and put more concentrated effort into hunting. Hunters, like fisherman, have a segment within their ranks that are persistent and tend to be successful almost every year. Like the fishing axiom that 10% of the fisherman catch 90% of the fish, how do you increase the success rate of the majority? Either increase supply and/or increase effort. Effort is basically a self-motivation factor, so it is up to the individual to dedicate the time (and money) for hunting. The economics of the region surely plays an important role.

-Jim Hall, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains

We have been actively searching for hunter-killed deer to collect samples for monitoring Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). So far we have done well in our collections, thanks to the great cooperation from hunters, taxidermists, registration stations, and meat processors. We really appreciate the help these folks have given us, everyone has been eager to lend a hand in our efforts. However, we still have a few samples left and are calling on sportsman for more help. We are particularly interested in samples from the following hard to get towns: The Forks Plantation, Lincoln Plantation, Magalloway Township, and Andover. If you have harvested a deer in one of these towns, we need your help. Please call the Strong Headquarters (778-3324), and we will make arrangements to collect a sample from your deer.

The harvest during the first week of the season was low compared to previous years in Region D, probably because the weather was uncooperative and hunters just were not in the woods. Things started to pick-up last week with plenty of yearling bucks showing up at the meat lockers despite the warm weather. Toward the end of the week, bigger bucks were starting to come into meat lockers and taxidermists indicating that the rut is coming to full swing. No tracking snow in the region for last week, but many hunters have been taking advantage of the good beechnut crop in the Region.

On Veteran’s Day, I had the opportunity to visit several hunting camps and lodges near The Forks. It was an enjoyable day; I spent time in a part of the region that I don’t normally get to be in, and talked to sportsman from several different states. Most sportsmen I talked to have not seen the deer they were looking for yet, hopefully the weather will change for the better and improve their success. There is still plenty of season left so don’t fret, just get out there and enjoy the Maine Woods.

-Bob Cordes, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region

It 's not always easy to write about things that are happening today, especially when you're working against a deadline, so I will go to the memory bank. Before I was a biologist I was a warden. As you know warden's work can be hazardous. Sure enough, I was patrolling one spring near Puyallup, Washington, when I spotted a car parked in a limited access area next to a stream which was closed to fishing. I went in and found a fellow with three nice cutthroat trout, each about 16" long. I relieved him of the fish and told him to clear out with his car. That was behind the artillery range at Ft Lewis, Washington. Apparently some of the better fishing is in closed areas. The only time I had to unholster my .45 was when I caught a housecat ready to pounce on a wood duck. Back then, wardens were allowed to sample the resource. We harvested by hand some spent sea run salmon to smoke for an annual banquet. I left that job 35 years ago to continue my studies. And with that I will return to the present.

-Bill Noble, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region

The second week of the firearms season for deer in Region F started off looking very promising, Monday morning hunters awoke to a 2” fresh coating of wet snow. Unfortunately, it was not enough to cover the ground under the conifers and by afternoon it had totally melted. Still, it was a quick opportunity to get out and see what areas the deer were using if you were lucky enough to have it off.

The rest of the week featured mostly wet and windy weather except for Friday and Saturday, which finally gave us a break from the damp and cloudy conditions. Although Friday turned out to be quite windy and not the best conditions for hunting, for myself and other hunters I spoke to there was plenty of buck activity observed indicating that the rut is getting underway. Saturday morning turned out to be the better day of the holiday weekend with less wind albeit a bit too mild for most.

The deer harvest in the Region seems to be going fairly well with higher numbers being recorded in the southwestern portion and lower numbers as you progress north and east as expected. The tagging station in Milo had registered 88 deer as of Sunday and is on track to easily break last year’s total. Northern parts of the Region have not produced the numbers of deer, but what they lack in quantity is more than made up with quality with some of the larger bucks being harvested in these areas.

Some of the registration clerks have been asking why the racks of the bucks are smaller this year. Last year’s mild winter allowed for increased survival of fawns that are now yearlings some sporting small six to eight point racks. These deer are only 1½ years old and have not had enough time to produce large, heavy racks. Deer do not reach their full potential for antler development until they are at least 4½ years old and older. Good antler development on yearlings indicates that they are in good condition and that the deer population for the area is in balance with the available habitat. Therefore, instead of wondering why the bucks are smaller this year they should be thinking quite the contrary and realize that the deer are actually doing quite well!

-Allen Starr, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region G - Aroostook County

This time of year during my weekly rounds in collecting deer biological data I frequently hear the terms antlers and horns used interchangeably. I realize what the individual means but let me enlighten the reader what a big difference there really is between the two terms. Antlers are a pair of bony branched structures that protrude from the frontals of the skull off a permanent bony base called a pedicel and are shed annually; whereas horns are also paired and protrude from the frontals but are permanent, unbranched and made up of a bony core and a keritanized sheath. The material that makes up the sheath is similar to material in our fingernails and hair.

Antlers: Antlers are easily distinguished and very characteristic in the family Cervidae (deer, moose, elk, and caribou) and present only in males with the exception of caribou. As antlers grow they are covered with skin and soft hair called “velvet” which carries blood vessels and nerves. Toward the end of antler growth spongy bone is replaced by compact bone and the velvet dies and removed during rut, when the animal is rubbing against trees or other objects. As we know from last weeks article antlers are used during rut in competition for females. As day length shortens during winter month’s antler growth hormones decrease causing a weakening between the pedicel and the antler which eventually causes the animal to shed the antler.

Horns: Horns occur in males of all species and often in females of the family Bovidae (gazelles, African antelope, buffalo, mountain goats, cattle, sheep, and goats). Horns have a bony core covered with keratin, but never branched, and vary in shape and size between different species. The growth of horns is considerably different then that of antlers. Neither the sheath nor the core are ever shed, and the majority of horns never stop growing. The use of horns is similar to antlers and used by males during rut. Horns are present in both sexes of larger species but absent in females of smaller species.

Pronghorn antelope in the family Antilocapridae (only pronghorn antelope) have distinctive upright horns. These differ in horns of bovids as discussed prior in two respects. First, they are branched, and second, while the horns consist of a bony core and a keritanized sheath, the sheath is shed annually.

-Rich Hoppe, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Submitted by : Mark Latti, DIFW.
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NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.