Old News Archive

Outdoor Report - November 6, 2007

November 06, 2007 - TRC

Region A- Southwestern Maine

Here it is, 3:00 pm on the second Saturday of deer season and wouldn’t you know it, rain. A nice, hard, wind-driven rain. At least the morning hours were ideal for some time outdoors. You know there are only 5 Saturdays during the firearms season for deer, so already nearly 40 per cent of our weekend hunting time has been wet. I plant myself at Sawyer’s Market in Gorham during opening day to check deer that are being registered. Last week we tagged 10 deer, the lowest number in my memory.

I attribute this to two factors, the periods of heavy rain throughout the day, and fewer deer available for the November hunter in southwestern and coastal Maine. Areas that are basically off-limits to the firearm hunter are now exploited by archery hunters. Archers are allowed to purchase multiple permits for antler-less deer during this expanded season. We are seeing a reduction in deer numbers. This is not a bad thing, up to a point. The tricky part is recognizing when our deer population is properly balanced with available habitat, conflicts with suburban Mainers are manageable, and when unscrupulous individuals abuse the system. That’s what we get paid to figure out, right.

Checking in at Sawyer’s later in the weekend finds they registered 19 deer on the 3rd., This is more like a normal Saturday. Also noteworthy was a mid-week harvest that was better than normal.

For the second year in a row I have noticed an incredibly large number of crows (500 or so,) on the move in one group. This occurred on Wednesday, Oct. 31st. Spooky.

-Norman Forbes, Wildlife Biologist Specialist

Region B - Central Maine

Deer season 2007 will go down in history as the shortest season on record for this whitetail chaser. I will admit it, I didn’t hunt opening day. I love my five - year old daughter more than hunting and the heavy rain on Saturday had me playing with her and giving the cold shoulder to my hunting mates. I talked with them on Sunday and they reported seeing thirteen deer on opening day, without a single shot being fired.

Monday afternoon, I climbed into my tree stand on the edge of a field overlooking several apple trees that were heavy with apples. The wind was blowing hard out of the west and it was colder than I had anticipated. Although I was dressed warm, I had forgotten my gloves and after about one hour, my fingers were starting to feel the affect. I thought about changing stands, and lamented that I hadn’t picked my other stand in the woods, well out of the wind. I decided to stick with it and thought to myself that if I was stupid enough to forget my gloves, I would have to live with the pain. Be quiet, stop whining !

Just about 5:30 I look up to see two does come ever so easily down the trail. They were moving very cautiously and I was frozen in my seat hoping they would not catch my scent and bolt away. Then began the mind games. Do I try and take one or do I hold out for a bigger buck sometime later in the season. I began to try and evaluate my calendar in my head to remember what the Thanksgiving week schedule would allow. Deer hunting for me is about camaraderie and the idea that I could be done in one hour and not hunt with my mates was presenting quite a dilemma.

Carefully and at the speed of the glacier I managed the gun to my shoulder and brought them into the scope. Still they continued to come towards me cautiously but consistently. Soon they would be within twenty-five yards with no clue of my presence. I continued to weigh the options in my head. Do I pass or do I play. Here I am, I have prepared for the season with hours of preparation. I have the doe permit in my pocket. The big fat does is standing 25 yards away, broadside and I am trying to figure out what to do. I decided if you going to get all dressed up to come to the dance, you better be prepared to dance when the pretty lady walks by. Mercifully, I took her quickly. I never take the killing of an animal lightly. No ethical hunter ever does. The kill is just the necessary end to the hunt. I always say a quick prayer, just to take a moment to be grateful and to remain conscious of the magnitude of the event. Anyone who thinks deer hunting can’t be a sacred experience really doesn’t understand what motivates deer hunters. Sure wish I had gotten one of those bonus permits !

-Keel Kemper, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region C - Downeast

A few days ago, when I took off my uniform at the end of the workday, I found two ticks crawling around on my undershirt. One tick was about 2/3 the size of the other. The smaller was almost all black and the larger was reddish with a black disk on its back. I pulled out the handy “Tick ID Wallet Card” that I got from the Lyme Disease Foundation (www.lyme.org). The card has life-size pictures of deer ticks (the ticks that may carry Lyme disease) and enlarged, full color pictures of other ticks that you may find. The card is part of a tick removal kit that you can order from the website. It includes the tick ID card, a magnifying glass, tweezers, alcohol swabs and other information. As I suspected, both of the insects crawling around on my shirt were deer ticks. The larger, more colorful tick was a female and the smaller was a male. I have no idea how these ticks got inside my shirt, which was tucked into my pants since early in the morning. I guess I’ll never know where they came from and that’s part of the point of the story. These days, we have to be vigilant about ticks or run the risk of contracting Lyme disease or other tick borne ailments.

The very next morning, right after telling a friend about the ticks I found in my shirt, I looked down and found a fully engorged deer tick on the kitchen floor, right where my dog was scratching a few minutes before. The truth is, I’ve stopped counting the deer ticks I’ve found this year, mostly on my dogs and cats and fortunately, mostly before they’ve embedded themselves in their skin. Humans, dogs and cats can all catch Lyme disease, so keep a watchful eye for signs of the disease, which include fatigue and painful joints and muscles.

Lyme disease has been spreading rapidly since its first detection around Lyme, Connecticut in 1975, but unfortunately information about the disease seems to be spreading more slowly than the disease itself. For example, when I went to the doctor to be tested for Lyme disease in 2006 after finding an engorged deer tick under my arm, I was told that there haven’t been any cases of Lyme disease in Washington County, so its unlikely that I could have it. Although as of 2006 there were no confirmed cases in Washington County, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/ddc/lyme_disease.htm), 14 of Maine’s 16 counties had confirmed Lyme disease cases. Hancock County had 6 confirmed cases in 2006, while York County had 133 cases. There is no reason to doubt the possibility of being infected with Lyme disease anywhere in Maine. Furthermore, some experts think that only a third of actual Lyme disease cases are ever properly diagnosed. To make matters worse, the longer a person harbors the disease, the more damaging and more difficult it is to eradicate. Early and aggressive treatment with antibiotics, along with complimentary therapies (diet changes as well as nutritional supplements and stress reduction techniques to bolster the immune system), seems to offer the best way to treat the disease.

Deer ticks have a complex life cycle that includes feeding on three hosts. The first host tends to be a small mammal or bird. The second host may be a bird or mammal, including mice, dogs, deer or humans. The third host usually is a larger mammal such as a deer, human or dog.

Control of deer populations is often considered as a way to control the spread of Lyme disease. Drastic reductions of deer may have an impact on the abundance of deer ticks, as was found on Monhegan Island when deer were all but eliminated from the island. On the mainland, or even large, near-shore islands like Mount Desert Island, however, it may not be so straight forward to reduce tick numbers. Some researchers claim that deer tick numbers are more closely tied to the abundance of birds and small mammals, like mice and squirrels.

There are as many opinions about diagnosing and treating Lyme disease as there are experts in the field. There are only a few things of which we can be assured. Lyme disease is widespread in Maine and it is up to you to learn about it, or run the risk of a lasting battle with an ugly disease.

-Rich Bard, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region D - Western Mountains

While some biologists and lots of game wardens worked this weekend, checking deer and hunters respectively, I continued to toil installing clapboards on a new garage. This gave me lots of time to think about deer hunting, especially since it was occurring all around me, even within sight of where I was working. It crossed my mind that golf and deer hunting have many things in common.

Both rely on personal integrity to follow rules for the benefit of fellow participants. Many of the decisions facing golfers and deer hunters can be answered by asking yourself; “I know its legal but is it right”? Unlike other major sports, golfers keep their own scores, are expected to follow the rules, often while out of sight of tournament officials. Former PGA standout Raymond Floyd lost a major tournament because he recorded an extra stroke when his club head touched the ball during a practice swing while he was out of bounds in the woods. This was unknown to everyone but himself. For us duffers, every round involves decisions as to when there is a safe distance between you and the next golfer, before you decide to hit. Golfers share a course with many others just like hunters share the woods with other hunters, as well as property owners. The quality of experience in both pursuits relies heavily on the behavior of fellow participants.

Individual decisions made by deer hunters affects safety, future land access, and the conservation of wildlife. Being 100% certain of both your target and any human activity or dwelling within the line of fire or beyond is a personal responsibility. While the law covers distances from roads and dwellings, it is the responsibility of the hunter to fire or not fire in a safe general direction. Or to hunt or not hunt with a rifle near homes even though it is possible to stay just beyond the minimum legal distance.

Nothing in the law book defines shot selection to ensure that a high probability of a kill is made. That is pure personal responsibility. It can be a source of personal pride for hunters who know they filled their tag and conserved wildlife by removing just one deer from the population. And last, showing respect for the landowner and homeowners living in close proximity to hunting activity goes a long ways towards keep private land open. Deer hunting in close proximity to homes can be legal but a poor decision if it causes actual safety concerns, or the appearance of a hazard in the eyes of the non-hunting public.

I golf and I deer hunt but I don’t want either occurring in my yard or right next to my house. This fall, remember the ethics golfer Raymond Floyd who forfeited fame and a small fortune by doing the right thing when nobody was watching. Nothing defines ethics and class better than his actions.

- Chuck Hulsey, Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region E - Moosehead Region

Although we have a cookbook for much of our work, occasionally you get to improvise. From time to time when freeze up is approaching in the fall, we have had to trap and transplant some beaver whose dam building threatens someone’s road use/access/leach field or what not. (Much of this work is now done by animal control “agents.”) To satisfy both trappers and other segments of the public we were, at that time, asked to deal with those situations without immediately dispatching the beavers. Somewhere I heard that some genius damage control agent had moved such nuisance beavers into old/dead flowages & provided them with a foodpile, in order that he could trap them again when the open season rolled around a few weeks later. Once when a landowner in Abbot wanted to “restore” a duck marsh, I tried it myself. And it worked. I checked the next spring, the beavers had stayed put. How much of a foodpile does a beaver need? Based on work done in Michigan, not much. A loose pile, 7 ft x 7 ft x 2 ft, should be enough for the whole winter for one. Popple, which is their favorite food, can be easily had. Beaver tend not to move when freezing temperatures approach. When ice forms they’re locked out.

-Bill Noble, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region F, Penobscot Region

Overall, the first week of firearms season for deer was a good one, except for the windy, rainy conditions on both Saturdays. At least the second Saturday had decent hunting conditions for half the day until the monsoon moved in! Hunting conditions through much of last week were good to very good with mostly light winds, clear skies, and cooler temperatures.

So far this year I have taken biological data from just over 100 deer, here’s the breakdown from this week’s samples: 19 were adult males (2 ½ years and older),
38 were yearling males (1 ½ years old), and 4 male fawns were sampled (6 months old).

On the female side of the harvest, 30 were adults, 3 were female yearlings, and 6 were female fawns. This is typically what we see for the buck harvest early in the season with twice as many yearlings taken than adults. A number of hunters I’ve spoken with mentioned that the bucks are getting smaller, but what they really are observing is a function of age. Most of the smaller bucks that are harvested are yearlings sporting their first set of antlers. Some are spikes or 4 pointers, but I have seen some yearlings with up to 7 or 8 points. Mature, adult bucks do not reach their full potential for body size and antler growth until they are at least 4 ½ years old. I guess the point I’m trying to make is that those larger bucks are out there and before you squeeze the trigger on that crotch horn you may want to reconsider your options.

A lot of hunters appear to be taking advantage of their Any-Deer permits. Hunters with permits can harvest any age doe and also male fawns. Most of the does I’ve looked at this year have been older deer; females tend to make it to older age classes because their harvest is restricted by the permit system and they are not as heavily sought after by hunters, as are bucks.

As the season progresses into the second and third weeks adult bucks will become more active and begin to make-up a larger percentage of the harvest. In my own hunting endeavors, at the tale end of this first week, I started noticing signs of the upcoming rut. A few small scrapes located at traditional locations signifies to me that the rut is just around the corner.

Have an enjoyable and productive hunting season and remember that the big boy IS out there !

-Allen Starr, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Region G - Aroostook County

Regional wildlife staff spent most of last week collecting deer samples for Chronic Wasting disease testing. Most deer hunters in northern Maine will cut-up their own deer rather than take the deer to a local meat cutter. Because there are only a few meat lockers in Aroostook County, obtaining information on Chronic Wasting disease requires a lot of time on the phone and extensive travel to pick-up deer heads from local residences. We really appreciate the assistance we get from local deer hunters, taxidermists, deer hunting guides, and many others who have helped us in collecting these deer samples.

Generally during the early part of the deer hunting season we see a lot of yearling bucks while collecting deer biological samples. This deer season has been no exception with many spikehorn and 4 pointers being harvested in the first week of deer season. Most of these early season deer are harvested in some of the large fields in Aroostook County.

At the Dickwood Lake WMA in Eagle Lake we are now working with the local snowmobile club, Eagle Lake Winter Riders, and the Town of Eagle Lake to re-route ITS 85, a major snowsled trail between Portage, Eagle Lake, and Fort Kent. For many years this trail has followed old logging roads on the Dickwood WMA; however, loss of landowner permission outside the wildlife management area has required the local snowmobile club to relocate a large section of trail. Given the many miles of old logging roads in the area this seems like a simple matter, but there are many issues that must be resolved before ground work begins. For example, the first step is to find a trail or old road that will tie-in with existing trails and does not go through special or significant wildlife habitats. Other issues that had to be discussed and resolved include: trail width, trees to be harvested, removal of brush, filling holes, bulldozing, and equipment needs and size. For example, a big bulldozer would certainly do the job, but once the snow leaves in the spring we will have a lot of exposed soil, upturned tree roots, water erosion and an ugly scar on the landscape. The trick is to get the job done in a manner that effectively meets the needs of snowsled riders but doesn’t have major impacts on other natural resources in the area.

Last Saturday as I was sitting in my deer stand I had a barred owl (Strix varia) come by and show me how hunting is really done. From my tree stand I observed many northern red-backed voles (Clethrionmys rutilus) scurrying around in the forest litter. (If you’re not sure what a northern red-backed vole looks like, vision a very stocky mouse with a short tail.) Watching this owl, it was obvious this owl knew there were many voles in the surrounding forest litter and also knew just how to hunt them. The owl flew silently, stopping every 30-40’ in a tree perch, waiting several minutes at each stop. The barred owl stayed close to the ground, perching only approximately 10’ above the forest floor, watching and waiting patiently for any signs of movement on the forest floor. Oblivious to my presence, several times the owl swooped down to the forest floor after voles. This barred owl stayed around my tree stand for about ½ hour, covering a complete 360 degree circle around me. On this day I was a wildlife watcher, observing a true forest hunter showing me how it’s done.

-Arlen Lovewell, Assistant Regional Wildlife Biologist

Submitted by : Marl Latti, DIFW

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

For More Information, Please Contact:

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

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