Old News Archive

Outdoor Report - October 16, 2007

October 16, 2007 - TRC

Region A- Southwestern Maine

The first fall wild turkey hunting season with a firearm began this past Saturday in wildlife management districts 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25. The season runs from October 13 thru October 19. A resident or non-resident big game hunting license is required as well as a wild turkey hunting permit ($20.00 for resident, $47.00 for non-resident). One turkey of either sex may be taken and must be registered at an official registration station.

There has been a fall archery season on wild turkey since 2002 in certain parts of the state with hunter success running approximately between 5 and 15 per cent annually. It is anticipated that the success rate with a shotgun will be greater, and the department will be closely monitoring registration stations, as well as gaining insight from the hunter questionnaire issued to a sample of permit holders.

The first day of the shotgun season 15 birds were registered at Sawyer’s Market in Little Falls and 5 registered at Wing’s Market in New Gloucester.

One benefit of having a fall season should be a reduction of nuisance birds around farms. Birds that are allowed to forage where livestock are fed quickly become accustomed to the easy pickings and lose their natural wariness over time. Farmers and their family members will not only remove nuisance birds but will also enjoy wild turkey for dinner.

-Norman Forbes, Wildlife Biologist Specialist

Region B - Central Maine

It always amazes me with wildlife populations, with what goes around comes around. A species can be virtually non-existent one year and thick as thieves the next. That appears to be the case with this year’s ruffed grouse numbers as reported from the County and within central Maine. For the last several years’ upland grouse hunters have complained and quietly prayed for a season like this one. Recruitment and survival of first year birds appears high as reported by those with the inclination for primary wing examination.

Would someone please tell me a year when they can remember the soft mast crop being so abundant? I have never seen the apple trees so laden with fruit. There are enough wild grapes in the woods to consider starting an organic winery. Some folks would say that portends a real winter. I can’t confirm that but it clearly demonstrates that food is rarely a limiting factor for most wildlife populations.

Woodcock appear to be late or their numbers not as abundant. The fall rains appear to be late in arriving and perhaps drier conditions may have dispersed worm doodles from their traditional alder wetlands. I recruited some Pennsylvania hunters to come up this year and hunt Frye Mountain Wildlife Management area. I told them no problem getting woodcock the second week of October. Oops! Hopefully this year’s grouse numbers will convince them to return next year and leave a pocketful of money behind.

Nuisance wildlife complaints coming into the regional office are definitely down. My annual nuisance beaver list, which provides contact information for folks in need of legitimate trapping pressure, has only six entries. Most years it is two pages in length. The exception to this is the nuisance complaints coming in for wild turkeys. I believe the peak has not yet come for turkey populations in central Maine based on the complaints over the phone survey methodology. However, like this years grouse season, what goes around comes around and all too soon you will hear someone say, “There just aren’t the wild turkey’s this year like there has been in the past”.

-Keel Kemper, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region C - Downeast

This coming Wednesday evening, October 17 at 6:00 pm, Department representatives will be attending a Sportsman’s Forum hosted by the Bucks Mill Rod & Gun Club in Bucksport. These events are periodically held at different locations around the State; often at the request and invitation of the Commissioner’s Advisory Council Member that represents that geographic area. Normally, the Commissioner as well as some of the administrative heads are there representing the Wildlife, Fisheries, Warden Service, and Public Information & Education bureaus / divisions. Also in attendance are Regional Department staff who cover or work in the general area. This includes district game wardens as well as both wildlife and fisheries biologists. These forums are set up to provide the public an opportunity to bring questions or concerns to the attention of the Department. Over the years, they’ve proven to be a great opportunity for both Department personnel as well as the public to gain new insights as well as get some answers on various issues concerning our wildlife and fishery resources. If you happen to be in the greater Bucksport area come mid-week, consider stopping by … and don’t hesitate to bring along your youngster, as there’s often something included in the program for them.

Speaking of youth … this coming Saturday, October 20, is youth deer hunting day. This is a tremendous opportunity to introduce a young hunter, who holds a valid junior hunting license, to the pursuit of deer hunting. Those licensed hunters who are at least 10 years of age but younger than 16 can participate under the direct supervision of a parent, guardian, or qualified adult. The supervising adult may not possess a firearm while accompanying a participating junior license holder. The junior hunter is allowed to take 1 deer of either sex with either a firearm or bow and arrow; which would constitute their season bag limit unless they were awarded a bonus anterless deer permit for a specific Wildlife Management District, or participate in the expanded archery season in certain designated areas of the State.

After two mild winters, it was expected, and many early reports would seem to indicate, an increase in deer sightings in favored fall locations. This is an excellent opportunity to school young hunters to all of the various aspects of hunting deer before the regular firearm season begins. As with any schooling, some preparation would be helpful in making Saturday’s venture a success … not necessarily defined only by a deer hung in the garage, but by taking the steps in developing a future hunter who knows his quarry (habits, life history, signs, etc.) and is committed to being a safe and ethical hunter. As with any pursuit, if they learn the basics well, with proper coaching and patience the rewards will be forthcoming.

Hopefully scouting exercises which involves the young hunter(s) have already begun. If not, there’s still some time to do some evening cruising to know where Saturday morning will find you. It’s a great time to introduce a junior hunter to respecting the rights of landowners by checking in with landowners and getting permission to scout and/or hunt. I’d be willing to bet that sometimes having a young, anxious hunter next to you isn’t a bad “foot in the door” technique in seeking permission to access private land. Posted property is quickly becoming a way of life in many parts of Maine, so the youngster needs to get in the habit now. And even if not posted, it’s a way to do your part to assure the property remains that way; or at least perhaps your access to it.

Matters of safety and ethical behavior in pursuing game cannot be overstressed. Both the future of hunting and the enjoyment and rewards that hunting and days afield offer your junior hunter are at stake. Make it a safe, rewarding, and enjoyable outing …

-Tom Schaeffer, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains

The October portion of the 2007 Maine moose hunt ended this past Saturday. Once again, we had registration stations in Rangeley, Eustis, Solon, and Andover. This year we added a station in Strong for the convenience of people hunting in the southern portion of Wildlife Management District (WMD) 7. The addition of a fifth station will also accommodate moose hunters in 2008 when WMD 16 (includes Farmington) is opened.

Biologists from Region A (Gray), B (Sidney), D (Strong), and Bangor (Resource Assessment Section) aided in the collection of biological data again this year. I was able to visit each of the stations for the first time. When I arrived at the Eustis station on Wednesday, District Game Warden Blaine Holding introduced me to a father, daughter, and step-mother moose hunting group who were registering a second moose. Both women drew permits, one for WMD 7 and the other for WMD 8. Dad was the sub-permittee for both. Here is their story.

Dawn Hatch and Frank Guptill of Friendship, Maine were hunting with Frank’s daughter Jennifer. Jennifer took an adult bull in Adamstown Township (just west of Rangeley) the day before and Frank was there weighing and registering a second bull which he took off the Gold Brook Road north of Eustis that morning. Frank has been applying for a moose permit every year, but has never drawn one. Either the person drawing the permit, or the designated sub-permittee, which Frank was, can shoot the moose. They must hunt together. Dawn drew her first permit this year after applying for 10 straight years. Jennifer drew her first permit after applying for five years. The lesson is: if you aren’t lucky enough to draw a permit, be close to someone who is.

For a look at their moose, please visit: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting_trapping/weekly_reports/photos_regiond/index.htm

In the course of my work, I encounter people who on multiple occasions have either drawn a moose permit, or have been the sub-permittee. While others have applied year after year with no success. So what are the odds of getting a permit?

It’s a little complicated because of many variables. The number of permits, applicants, and chances purchased per applicant weigh heavily in one’s odds. Residents can purchase one, three, or six chances each year. Plus applicants earn one chance for each consecutive year they apply and are unsuccessful. Non-residents have that opportunity as well however there isn’t a limit on the number of chances they can purchase. While that sounds like a big advantage, a non-resident’s chance is limited by the fact that only 10% of the permits go to non-residents. There have been just under 3,000 total permits issued each year in recent years.

So what are your chances of drawing a permit next year? Here are some interesting statistics provided to me by Mark Ostermann who is in the forefront of collecting and managing a lot of these data for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Number of permit applications in 2007: 65,090
Resident applications: 46,570
Non-resident applications: 18,520

Odds of getting a permit if you are resident, applying for the first time, buying one chance: 1 in 107

Odds of getting a permit if you are resident, applying since 1998 (getting preference chances), and buying 6 chances: 1 in 10.

Odds of getting a permit if you are non-resident: 1 in 700 for every chance. Chances can be purchased and/or earned for every consecutive unsuccessful year of purchasing a chance.

One-third of all applications have the same address, meaning multiple household members apply. One hundred permits go to more than one person at the same address.

One-third of the permits go to persons who have applied each year since 1998.

Though it takes work and skill to fill out a moose tag, it is still better to be lucky than good when it comes to drawing a moose tag. Good luck in 2008.

- Chuck Hulsey, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region

When are deer numbers optimum? Farmers (and others) know that you don’t want to stock too many animals on a pasture of a given size. Competition for food would affect their well-being. At extreme levels, more and more starvation occurs. And where there are effective predators, they can cash in on weakened animals.

In winter our deer are on a “pasture” of limited size. What we call WMD 9, approximately 950 square miles east of Moosehead Lake has only approximately 25 square miles of winter range in 3 major deer wintering areas today. (We have a pretty good knowledge of where deer winter in 9, I think, compiled through years of research. Probably 90 percent of WMD 9 deer winter in those 3 wintering areas.) The deer found throughout WMD 9 in spring/summer/fall must subsist on the plant life within reach, and their fat reserves, for approximately four-plus months each winter. Other potential foods are too far from their shelter needs & in areas where the snow is generally too deep (landscape level).

Our official management plan for deer calls for us to get the population up to, & keep it at 50-60% of K carrying capacity, a theoretical level where productivity (production of young, thus potential harvest) is maximized. Our management system says the average beam diameter of the antlers of bucks in the yearling age class, YABD, when it equals 15-16 mm, will tell us we are at 50-60% of K (and when we are above or below). This notion is untested.

There is a hitch however; in parts of the State where not too many deer are taken by hunters, we don’t measure the antlers of enough yearling bucks to say that we really know what the average diameter of all is. And there are questions about whether YABD measures numbers are relative to summer carrying capacity rather than winter.

A more direct approach is to go to the woods and in the spring, measure actual use of the previous years growth, sampling in and near the areas deer resort to when the snow is at least moderately deep. It is possible to identify last year’s growth on a woody plant because the point from which growth occurred is marked by a terminal bud scale scar.

This was the approach taken last spring for WMD 9. Eleven miles of transects were run thru Deer Wintering areas in locations chosen at random with observations of food availability and use made every 40 ft.

This exercise yielded an estimate of 54% of available browse taken by deer, moose, & rabbits within the height range deer can use during the prior winter. Fifty percent use during an average winter is regarded by experts as about the maximum use level a manager should allow to occur since some winters may be considerably longer than average, and beyond some point, maybe 75%, browsing can cause the deaths of plants which may be needed in future years. The few moose that situate next to Deer Wintering Areas may to some slight extent reduce available browse for deer.

At the moment deer numbers in WMD 9 are limited by the amount of appropriate habitat (shelter) and close at hand food, not hunting or predators. Deer are rather scarce, but we should not expect to have more.

More cautious people might qualify some conclusions based on the same Data. Most analyses you hear of are based on less, and never qualified with words such as maybe.

- Bill Noble, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region

A better week weather-wise greeted moose hunters for the second of the two six-day seasons. The one-day exception being Friday, and that was a major rain event. Still, temps were cooler than the unusually warm first week two weeks prior. An early Saturday morning call to our nine tagging stations monitored by Region F suggested that results were quite varied throughout the Region. As with the first week, some stations were registering moose within the average number they usually tag, while others were significantly less. Once the data is analyzed, it will be interesting to see what the success rates were by season, WMD, and bull vs. anterless-only permits. While being selected to hunt moose is always a special opportunity for hunters, monitoring the hunt has changed over the years. As mentioned, Region F contracts with 9 tagging stations to collect biological data for us. This leaves us with the opportunity to not only visit several stations, and take part in some data collection, but more importantly to talk with moose hunters or perhaps bird or deer hunters. It is important for us to be out and about, listening to, and discussing the views and opinions of our public. Visiting the many tagging stations throughout the week affords us that opportunity to listen to folks who are in many ways our “eyes and ears” in the field. It also affords us the opportunity to continue work on other important initiatives that are not associated with the moose hunt. Region F is very grateful for the quality of work our tagging stations perform during both the moose and deer seasons. Thanks to all.

Reports from the field suggest a rosier picture for grouse hunters. A good nesting year for a change this past spring has translated into plenty of action early in the bird season. Reports of hunters getting into birds throughout the Region have been commonplace thus far. A nice change after poor hunting seasons (for the most part) the previous two years.

The early fox and coyote trapping season began on the 14th. Trappers are reminded of the additional trapping restrictions and guidelines for the northern WMDs that were part of the lynx lawsuit settlement agreement. And don’t forget that this coming Saturday (20th), is Youth Deer Hunting Day. Junior hunters may take a deer of either sex during this one-day opportunity.

Waterfowl hunting is progressing along, although I myself have not observed the flocks of migrants coming thru as yet. Perhaps now that the temps are cooling down and the cold fronts move thru our area we will see the northern birds coming in. Still, I have enjoyed some early-season gunning for both ducks and geese. This past Saturday after working our moose tagging station at our Enfield office for the AM, I headed out and put the canoe in for some jump shooting. A nice slow moving stream, plenty of color yet on the trees, and lots of robins flying back and forth as they get ready for the long trip south. Jump shooting solo while trying to paddle can sometimes be a challenge and this trip was no exception. Getting caught with your gun down and paddle up or watching a flock of mallards take off downstream and out of gun range is all part of it. So no ducks that trip, but I enjoyed it none-the-less, and just being out is a wonderful part of the hunting experience too.

-Mark Caron, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region G - Aroostook County

With the second week of moose season over, hunter success was much better than the first week with registration numbers slightly lower than last year. The Ashland station registered a total of 319 moose for both weeks, while it recorded 323 last year. In short the second week was excellent in the north making up the deficit from the first week. An issue brought to my attention by the warden service were numerous cases of moose hunters having antlerless permits where they were shooting bulls with antlers less then ear length (which is legal with antlerless permit) but leaving the animal thinking antlerless means “cow only”. This may be a case of not understanding the law or perhaps not reading the “Moose Hunters Guide”

Grouse are numerous this year with success stories from the majority of hunters. When birds are this numerous violations seem to escalate due to selfish and unethical law braking hunters taking over their limits and stealing from the sportsman. In a three-day period last week two warden sections under Sgt. Ward and Sgt. Gray had 10 over-the-limit cases with one party of 4 hunters having in possession 69 birds.

This coming Saturday is Youth Day for deer season and the biologists will be out collecting deer biological data to track the deer herd and collect samples for Chronic Wasting Disease Due to the hunting and fishing laws mandating the number of day’s deer season will run, this year will be one of the earliest.

With mild weather still up north many migratory birds particularly Canada Geese and Woodcock are in good numbers and have yet to arrive. This should put a smile on the wing-shooters since they should have an extended season this year.

-Rich Hoppe, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Submitted by Mark Latti, DIFW

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.