Another fall hunting season is fast approaching and the overall picture looks rather rosy. With few exceptions, game populations are robust and contain a harvestable surplus that should provide ample opportunities for outdoor recreation and outdoor protein. Let’s see some examples.
Bear season kicks off the fall hunting calendar at the end of August. The bear population is also growing faster than the seasons and existing methods cannot adapt, and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) continues to explore ways to control the population as complaints and interactions with humans are increasing. Several options were proposed this year but all ultimately failed in the legislative process. Wildlife managers will keep trying and hopefully it won’t take a serious incident to finally propel the process. In the meantime, bait hunters will receive the first hits, followed by trappers and those who hunt with dogs. The general season runs the gamut from the start of bait hunting to the end of deer gun season, and although few hunters target bears in off-seasons for specialized methods, some bears are accidentally captured by deer and moose hunters.
While most hunters target ducks and geese, the migratory game bird season also includes snipe, woodcock, and rails. The final season begins on September 1, and although turnout is low, a few diehards still practice traditional methods like perch through the wild flooded rice fields that line lakes and rivers. The start of the goose season begins on the same date with generous daily bag limits designed to encourage a higher harvest of another overabundant species. Resident Canada geese continue to be a problem, primarily as a public nuisance, littering public parks and golf courses, and clogging drinking water supplies.
The fall turkey season kicks off on September 20, preceded by a Youth Day on September 18. Turkeys should be plentiful but maybe not as much as in recent years. Things looked good at the time of hatching, but several cold, rainy days during a critical time for turkey poults could reduce productivity. The local flock that I watch daily started with 12 poults but quickly dropped to four during the rains.
Either way, there will always be enough to justify the effort, and a regulatory change could encourage a few more people to hunt fall turkeys. Wild turkeys harvested in the fall (only) do not need to be registered or have a shipping tag attached. Participation rates among fall turkey hunters in Maine have been relatively low, in part due to the range of other hunting opportunities available, particularly starting in October.
Deer hunting opportunities abound. The expanded archery season, which begins each year on the Saturday following Labor Day, gives archery hunters a first shot at deer in certain areas where gun hunting may be prohibited or impractical, or when harvesting in other seasons is insufficient to meet population reduction targets. The IFW continues to adjust and change the boundaries of specific areas where changes are warranted, so be sure to check for the most recent regulations.
Hunters who target antlerless deer during regular archery and firearms seasons will have even more opportunities with a 40% increase in permits for all deer, up from the previous record from 109,990 last year. Under Maine’s proven permit system, hunters have failed to meet harvesting targets in recent years, mainly in the central and southern regions. It is hoped that this increase will help stem the burgeoning herd, but more changes are likely underway for next year.
The regular duck and goose seasons begin on the traditional start date of October 1.
Expectations are questionable as the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service have again canceled their annual surveys of breeding populations and waterfowl habitat. Polls from North Dakota suggest the drought will impact North America’s ‘duck factory’ in the prairie pothole region and although production has likely declined, overall numbers are still above. the long-term average. The daily duck limit remains at six with some more restrictive exceptions.
Let’s not forget the moose. There are several seasons in September, October and November for those lucky enough to have drawn a permit. Inside these there will also be an adaptive moose hunting unit. Winter ticks appear to have a significant impact on moose productivity in some areas. IFW biologists set up this hunt to test whether the reduction in the moose population could depress the tick population and ultimately lead to better moose survival. Time will tell, but if it works, we could see more hunting opportunities in the short term and less moose in the long term.
There is a saying in business schools that challenges shouldn’t be seen as a problem, but as an opportunity. This seems especially true for some of our most abundant wildlife. Populations of deer, bears, moose and turkeys are robust and, in at least some areas, more abundant than the general public would like. Fortunately, there is a very simple and cost effective remedy among people who purchase the licenses that fund the protection and management of wildlife resources.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered guide from Maine who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: [emailÂ protected]