Hunters Bag Best Deer Season Since 1968

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Deer hunters in Maine had a remarkable season this past year, with hunters killing 38,153 deer, the highest total since 1968, marking it as the tenth best season ever.

"Hunter success can be directly attributed to several factors, including excellent survival rates for deer during a mild 2002 winter, a low 2001deer harvest, and very favorable hunting conditions this past fall," said Gerry Lavigne, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife deer biologist.

The 2002 deer kill stands in stark contrast to the low kill of 2001. This year's total of 38,153 was 37% higher than the 2001 harvest of 27,769. The 2002 statewide harvest of bucks was one of the best ever (20,694), second only to the record buck kill of 2000 (21,422). Success rate for all hunters was 22%, up from the 16% of the previous year.

Bowhunters registered 1,428 deer in the expanded archery season, and 601 deer during the October archery season. Muzzleloaders killed 1,038 deer during the two-week season. The highest deer kill during the season was 34,533 during the regular firearm season on deer. Young deer hunters got their own day in 2002, and 553 youth hunters were successful.

Following a review of harvest data and the likely impacts of the 2003 winter, department biologists have recommended issuing 72,600 Any Deer permits in various parts of Maine. These permits allow the hunter to kill a doe or a fawn, and permit allocations are varied annually to attain deer population objectives in each of Maine's 30 wildlife management districts (WMD) despite severe wintering conditions in about two-thirds of the state. The total number of Any Deer permits recommended is the second highest ever, second only to 2002 (76,989).

Maine's statewide post-hunt population of deer is estimated to be approximately 259,000 deer. This represents an 8% increase in the deer population from 2001 (241,000). Deer population management during 2003 will focus upon continued population recovery from the severe 2001 winter in northern and eastern WMDs by conservatively issuing Any Deer permits. In central and southern Maine, we will continue fairly aggressive doe harvests requiring substantial allocations of Any Deer permits to bring deer populations in line with new (generally lower) population objectives. This requires slight reductions in deer populations in most central and southern WMDs.