May 2011

 As usual when spring has sprung in most of the state, the North Country still seems more like winter. Hopefully old man winter will release his icy grip soon. The deer in the Jackman area all look good in early April as I write this. I know of only two deer that were killed by coyotes. There has been a good effort by hunters in this area to do their part to control coyotes and I think it has paid off. A lot of guys are baiting coyotes now but there is no question that the hound hunters are a lot more efficient at killing coyotes. Rick Labbe from Smithfield, has a camp in the Spencer area is responsible for killing 21 coyotes with his hounds. That’s outstanding, congratulations and a thanks to you Rick.
 I’m sure by now most of you have read about the new deer task force proposals to address the deer situation. Most of the ideas are good but the hard part is still going to be implementation. A lot of it still depends on the landowners deciding to be good stewards of wildlife. It is easy enough to say we’re going to cut a certain way because it’s within the law, but it takes a big person to say we’re going to look out for the deer because it’s the right thing to do. It seems as though the new Governor as well as the new commissioner are dedicated to seeing it through. In any event it is still going to be a long process, but at least the process will start instead of just talking about it.
 It’s probably no secret to those of you who read my columns or follow what I do, that I have been obsessed with deer all of my life. I’ve probably spent as much time in the deer woods as anybody and hunted a lot of different areas. I’m not a biologist and really do not have much interest in it. I’m just an intense observer of nature and deer in particular. I started reading books about the whitetail deer as soon as I was able to read them. I’ve always tried to relate the things I read to what I observe on my own. Some things have made sense and other things have not. If there is one thing I have learned is that the whitetail deer is such a diverse and adaptable creature we should not pigeon hole ourselves in trying to manage them. I believe it will take a lot of thinking “outside of the box” going down the road.
 When I was back in my teens, I read a book on deer by Leonard Lee Rue that I believe was called “The World of the Whitetail”. I still remember being fascinated by all the different places and habitats that this creature could live in. In that book, I learned that there were 23 separate sub-species of the whitetail deer. Of course living in Maine, I was the most interested in the deer of the North. The most Northern whitetail deer he listed was the Northern Borealis Deer. These he listed as deer of the Spruce, Fir Forests of the Northern tier of the US and into Canada. These deer he also listed as the largest bodied of all whitetail deer. They had evolved to survive the extreme cold and deep snow of these northern climates.
 I would like to propose a theory I have about our deer in Maine. I have talked to quite a few people about it made sense to them so here goes. I think that there are two separate sub-species of the whitetail deer in Maine. Here’s why I think that. Maine is diverse in habitat and climate from north to south. The spruce, Fir forest starts basically in the northern half of the State. This is also where the climate changes dramatically. I think if you took a map and drew a line on it starting around Montreal Quebec, east through the northern tip of New Hampshire and came through Maine in the Towns of Bethel, Rumford, Bingham, Monson, Milo, Lincoln, and Eastport it would be approximately when the Borealis Forest begins. Keep in Mind that Aroostook County was cleared to make way for farms. I believe the deer above that line are the Northern Borealis Deer. South of that line the deer are a different sub-species. Of course there is going to be a certain amount of overlap along the line.
 Here’s why I believe the deer are different sub-species besides the fact that the forest itself changes here. Statistically this is where the majority of the heaviest bucks are taken. Yes, I know that there are big bucks shot all around the State, but if you go to a tagging station in southern Maine, you might find that about 1 out of 50 bucks tagged dresses out over 200 pounds. If you go to a tagging station in the north, 1 out of 5 to 10 bucks will dress out over 200 pounds. Even the younger bucks are heavier on average. I have seen yearling bucks dress out at over 150 pounds in the north. I know a lot good buck hunters from the Adirondaks. They tell me that it is rare to shoot a buck that dresses out over 200 pounds. The Adirondaks is big woods but it is not a Borealis Forest. It is obvious that they have a different deer and when you look at the map New York is below the line, it only make sense to me that southern Maine would have the same deer as the Adirondaks because it is about the same latitude.
If this is the case should we manage the deer differently? I don’t know but maybe it’s something to think as we move forward with a deer management plan.
 Turkey season is coming right up and the Big Woods Bucks Pro-staff is looking forward to taking winners of our youth essay writing contest out on Youth day and teaching them about turkey hunting. Until next month: Good Luck on the Trail!

Hal is Master Guide and Author. He owns Cedar Ridge Outfitters with his wife Debbie
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