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Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
April 26, 2012 @ 1:00 p.m.
Attending: Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
Steve Philbrick, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant and seconded by Mrs. Ware to accept the Council minutes for the last meeting.
Vote: 5 in favor; 1 abstained (Mrs. Ware stated she had not read the minutes) – minutes accepted.
A. Step 3
1. Add WMD 9 to Spring Turkey Hunt; shot sizes
Mr. Connolly stated there was a slight modification from the original proposal. The description of “heavier than lead” had been used and when we checked the shot sizes it was clearer to not include that. We also added some clarifying language in the fall season to make it clear that it bow and arrow was allowed in Zone 3 and also include mixed loads there as well. This was intended to increase the opportunity for shells by having mixed loads be a legal shell during turkey season.
A motion was made by Mrs. Ware and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to accept the proposal as presented.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
2. Controlled Moose Hunt
Mr. Connolly stated this was a continuation of the hunt. There was a committee that oversaw the hunt made up of landowners and biologists. The hunt was well accepted and some adjustments had been made from last year.
A motion was made by Mr. Thurston and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to accept the proposal as presented.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
B. Step 2
1. 2012 Any-deer Permits
Mr. Connolly stated the biologists had used the winter severity and last year’s harvest information to develop new permit level suggestions for the upcoming hunting season. In the southern part of the state where they benefitted from the mild winter they were conservative to help re-grow the herd.
There were no further comments.
2. Youth day any-deer permits
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated there was very little discussion on the subject at Step 1. She and Mr. Kelly had discussed the issue and there was also a petition. We had proposed the issue in the past and it was not voted on favorably by the Council. We agreed to put the rule out for public comment once again to see what came back for input.
Mr. Kelly stated it was a rule they had been trying to change in his area since it had been put in place. He thought it was first implemented in 2008 or 2009 and he did not think anyone up there (Aroostook County) had ever really wanted it up there. To him, if we had something on for that many years, and it did effect them, they should be able to see where that had a positive effect or goals had been reached. He did not see that. In his case he saw it as a loss, a loss of youth hunters. He felt it was time we changed that and go to the social side of things. Mr. Kelly stated he tried to crunch some of the numbers, there was an average of 15 zones per year that were effected by it. The data he had went back to 2002. The average number of adult does harvested through all the zones was 121 per year. When that was broken down by zone it was about 8 deer per zone. He did not think those 8 deer outweighed the value of having youths hunt. He also saw a trend in the zones where they could hunt either or in the last 3 years the numbers had gone up. Deer harvested had gone up about 100 deer per season. He knew it was harvest data, but looking at it that was an increase of 100 youths each year that were getting to hunt. In the zones where you couldn’t hunt either or they didn’t show any growth of the youth going out hunting. He felt we should look at the numbers and if a biologist could state it was working and saving the deer, then really we struck on something that we should probably stick with. He stated they had not seen that, and we had plenty of years to find out. Mr. Kelly stated he felt the value of youth day for the youth and the ongoing of hunting traditions far out weighed the few deer that were harvested.
Mr. Kelly stated it was early success that made him want to hunt. When you were younger you wanted to hunt and take something. It was that experience that got you to the point where you were no longer just about going out there and pulling the trigger, you were about learning your hunting traditions. That started from actually being able to hunt and take an animal. He was afraid we were going to lose that. He was reminded of the letter sent to the Council by young Peter Michaud. Mr. Kelly had spoken with him by phone after receiving the letter and the thing that struck him was that Peter had wanted it changed. Peter realized it may not change in time for him, but he would like to see his little sister take a deer. Mr. Kelly stated he would like the Council to really consider whether this was really a valuable thing, not to let them hunt.
Mr. Kelly stated last year Sandy Ritchie was at the Council meeting. She basically said that as far as the Department was concerned, that the amount of deer that were taken was insignificant and not detrimental to their long term deer plan. That was stated in the meeting. Mr. Kelly stated he spoke with Andrea and the Commissioner and they felt that that was the same, that feeling had not changed. Mr. Kelly stated to him, that was more or less the Department signing off on this and stating it was not damaging and not hurting the Department’s plans. For them (public) it was hurting their youth.
Mr.Philbrick stated Mr. Kelly had asked him to read a letter that was sent to the Council by the Aroostook County Conservation Association (see packet).
Mrs. Ware stated she wanted to tell them a story. It was a story about her paying her taxes because when she went to pay her taxes every year, she went to her tax guy and he helped her prepare her taxes and she followed his best professional advice and gave him money for that. Then she went home at night and watched TV and saw special exceptions for big banks coming out of the tax laws, special exceptions for Wall Street, and everybody wanted a special exception. She was not happy with those she saw there. Her tax dollars made their way to Augusta and a few of those dollars made their way to IF&W and into the paycheck of the biologist. She and others all paid the biologists to give them their best professional opinion. Mrs. Ware stated she was sorry, but did not hear Sandy Ritchie say to the contrary that there was an open door, but she did not hear currently that there was an open door that we should have this special exception whether it be for youth or gender or because you hunt with special equipment, etc. She did not hear room for special exceptions. The professionals were telling them that the health and viability of the deer herd was in jeopardy and one of the things they needed to do among many factors was considering not taking does in certain areas. She did not currently support a carved out special exception for youth hunting does on youth hunting day because she felt it was a backwards approach. Mrs. Ware stated she honestly believed we couldn’t always do what we always did, we had to work together to figure out a way to get out of the box in a new and creative manner. We needed to, for example, we had an island in Maine stating they were overrun with deer and needed to take them out because they were causing Lyme problems. But, that they might not want hunters out there. Did we need to get the clubs and the youth together with that island to figure out how to give the youth a first class hunt? Did we need to do something with the length of the youth hunt? Parents were not going to take their children and drive to York County for a 1-day hunt. Should it be 3 or 5 days; did the clubs down there need to help the clubs up in the County, work with landowners, get maps, find places for the youth to hunt? She did not know. She coordinated people traveling from Maine to Chili, Laborador, it was possible. They had to think out of the box, working backwards in her opinion was not the way to do it and she could not support opening the youth hunting does on youth hunting day.
Mrs. DeMerchant stated she could not have said it any better than Mrs. Ware. There were options out there. Opening that particular day to take does in those areas that there were currently no doe permits was not the way. Mrs. Ware had offered some options and it would be great if they could all work together and try to make it happen.
Mr. Thurston asked if Mr. Connolly could speak to the biological piece. What was the loss of does really costing us?
Mr. Connolly stated he was not prepared to speak to that. Deputy Commissioner Erskine had worked through it and probably assembled some information.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated a big part of the two other times this was proposed, there had been very little public support. Maybe it was the feeling up north that people in the southern part of the state shouldn’t be speaking to what was happening up there with the doe permits and the youth, but we had already started receiving comments saying 10 does in an area where we were not issuing permits was too much. She thought what Mrs. Ritchie had offered was when we were considering proposals there were different factors we had to take into account, the public support, the biological, the political and weigh it all out.
Mr. Kelly stated the number of deer taken by youth in 2009 in WMDs 1-4, there were no deer harvested. In 2010 there were 5 deer taken; 2 in WMD 2, 3 in WMD 3. 2011 WMD 1 had 0, WMD 2 – 0, WMD 3 had 3 bucks taken. They were seeing deer but couldn’t harvest the deer because they had to have antlers. We were talking about the biology, but the Department had already signed off on that saying it was not biologically unsound to do it. Mr. Kelly stated they were told that last year too, that biologically it was insignificant the number of does that were taken by youths. They were getting that from their biologists, their paid professionals. Mr. Kelly stated he didn’t come up with it, it was the IF&W biologist Sandy Ritchie.
Mr. Thurston stated he represented Cumberland County and they had plenty of deer. However, he represented everybody that lived in Cumberland County and there was a large number of them who owned properties and hunted religiously from Rangelely to Eustis to The Forks. He was getting feedback from people in the woods who were in WMDs where shooting does was not allowed on youth day and they saw it as a hunting experience, not a killing experience. They did not see the sense in the proposal. Mr. Thurston stated he had talked with a gentleman from Caribou and there was a complaint about moose being shot in November in the County. He wanted to protest that that was occurring because he had witnessed a moose on a trailer with two deer. That offended him that they had harvested deer while they were here. Mr. Thurston stated he brought up the shooting of does with the gentleman, and he did not see any sense in it. Mr. Thurston stated he was hearing different things than Mr. Kelly from the science and he wished Mr. Kantar was at the meeting to speak to that. Mr. Thurston stated he was hearing from those that took their kids and spent a lot of money in those counties that did not have doe permits for the kids, they didn’t want to see us open it up.
Mr. Thurston stated from a personal experience he had been hunting WMDs 7 and 8 since 1970. Back then there were deer up north, but not in the south. Now, he had been dealing with his grandchildren, one that had been hunting for 3 years, and one that wanted Grampa to bring him. They had not shot a deer. Last year in Eustis at the store they tagged more 200 lb. bucks then he had seen in all the years hunting there. Mr. Thurston and his grandsons had cut more tracks last year then they had in the last ten. They saw a large doe with a yearling and a skipper. They also saw a 6 pt. buck and a spikehorn over the season. He understood the kids thing, but he was teaching them to hunt not to kill. They had to learn how to handle a compass, learn how to handle themselves in the woods, etc. He saw a lot of value in teaching them a lot of things and that did not include the shooting part, which they did practice a lot. Since the herd was hurting and there was a lot of effort going on, there was some deer feeding that was going on and we were trying to educate people on how to do that better. He heard the science was not saying it was a free run and those walking in the woods were not saying it was a free run, he was going to struggle with it too until he heard something different.
Mr. Kelly stated he must have misunderstood what was said last year.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated she had made a note to go back and look at Sandy’s comments. Those minutes would be sent back out the Council to review.
Mr. Philbrick stated this issue was not seen at Step 1 at the last meeting, and Mrs. DeMerchant had also sent an e-mail regarding that. He hoped the issue might be seen at Step 2 again.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we could do that. The purpose of coming to the meeting with the proposal at Step 2 was to get public input on the record.
Mr. Wheaton stated he grew up in a town called Forest City, Maine. In the 50’s and 60’s you could drive less than a mile from his house to the two big fields and at high noon they would see 19 deer feeding in one field and 21 deer feeding in the other. There were lots of deer, now the deer were gone. We had allowed our forests to be annihilated, we could not get an incidental take permit so to trap the coyotes, it was not all the State’s fault and not something money could fix. The people of the state had some blame too. He would like to listen to the comments from those attending the meeting. He had a letter from the Washington County Conservation Association and it stated “in a County where we made it possible so anybody who got caught shooting a doe out of season you get a $1,000 fine. How can we allow our youths to go and kill them when we’re fining everybody $1,000?” Mr. Wheaton stated he often said he didn’t want southern Maine to dictate how they hunted and fished in northern Maine. He’d had a number of phone calls from people in Washington County that had gone out of state to take their kids hunting. One of them had said he didn’t think it was too far out of line for them to travel, the youth could still kill a deer, just not in the WMDs with no doe permits. Mr. Wheaton stated there was sure fact of biology that if they killed off the does they would not have many deer. That applied to all wildlife, if they did not manage properly and killed off the females they were done. His vote would have to be against the youth.
Mr. Philbrick opened it up to public comments for the record.
Less Phelps – I’ve hunted since I was 22, I’m 66 this year and I shot a lot of deer in NY. I’m not seeing the deer here. In 2007 I saw a deer every day when I got up in the morning and had my coffee, I’m retired. I’m not seeing the does at all. I saw one moose this year in my field, I have the old Churchill farm. I’ve seen bear also but no does. I’m not even a fan on this controlled hunt for moose season let alone deer. The numbers are down on the moose too. Especially you start a controlled hunt after a bad winter. There’s no thrill in shooting a doe to me anyways. I’m not in favor.
Jerry McLaughlin – President of ACCA. We started ACCA in December 23, 2008 and we’re up over 200 members. We brought this to the membership and they were all in favor of our youth. One day a year to shoot a doe. We’re conservationists, we’re trying to help our deer herd and we wouldn’t be here today saying, if we kill 5 deer in New Sweden and 10 in Allagash it’s going to make a big difference to our herd. It’s not. It seems to me the Department is worrying about our youth but condone the coyote. We started that year our first coyote contest getting started our ACCA we killed 37 coyotes. How many deer did that save? The next year we killed 57. We’ve been training hunters how to shoot these coyotes, it’s the only tool we got. The next year we killed 136. How many deer did we save that year? This year we killed 155 and we pay every one for these coyotes $21 apiece with money that we raised. No cost to IF&W. What we’re saying as sportsmen, and look around you, see any youth? Every club I go to no youth. We’re a dying breed guys. If we can’t afford this we’ve got to get some new management of how to raise our deer and take care of our deer habitat. I agree its our habitat and its a lot of problems like Lance said, but it’s time for us to get off our duffs and do something that’s productive. I support our youth day, one day a year for that kid. I talked to a gentleman the other night, he took his kid out dipping smelts. Kid kept looking at Dad saying this is boring. They got in their spot early, pretty soon the smelts started coming. He let the kid do the dipping, he put them in the can. Pretty soon the father looked at the son and said, this is boring…no way Dad this is fun! That’s what I’m saying about let that youth kill one little deer. I’m not saying let him do it every year, but after that youth kills his first deer then shut him off and bucks only after that. I’m in favor.
Paul Camping – Vice President of the ACCA. I’d like to start off by saying I am not a wildlife biologist and I have some information that I’d like to impart to you that is based on observations. Not only mine, but on many of the members of the ACCA. I’m in favor of allowing our youths to hunt does because I think we have a surplus. Now that sounds like a shocking statement to make but a surplus of deer in my opinion is the deer that’s not bred but yet lives in the habitat and consumes the resources that the other deer need. I have written a letter to Andrea Erskine in the past saying that we strongly believe we have a breeding success problem in Aroostook County. We see a lot of fawns that are born late, if not at all. At times we should be seeing the doe with a fawn we’re seeing does without fawns. The reason for that probably is predation, but it could also be because they have not been bred. Our habitat here is very fractured and spread out. We have a long distance between woodlots sometimes especially in the agricultural districts up here. We also see fawns that have spots in November which again tells us that doe was bred late. We do supplemental winter feeding and we see does being bred by bucks in January. The reason I think that happens in January as opposed to November when it would be optimal is because there is a strong shortage of bucks up here. Now if there’s a wildlife biologist that works for the State that could guarantee us that we don’t have a breeding success problem, that every doe is bred in November, that’s a horse of a different color. The other factor is predation on fawns. Whatever fawns we do get are consumed by the out of control bear population that we have up here and the coyote population that in spite of our best efforts continues to grow. So when I say a doe is a surplus doe, it’s probably because she’s not going to be bred this year. If you think of Aroostook County in terms of its land mass we have roughly 1/3 of the state. It would be reasonable to assume that we also have 1/3 of the bear population that resides in Aroostook County. I’m thinking that the bear population, and I’ve tried to run the numbers based on the expansion of the bear population minus the mortality from hunting and every year it seems to grow by at least 5%. I would not be surprised if in the next 6 months to a year Randy Cross comes out and says there are 40,000 bears in the state. If he said 40,000 bears and 1/3 of them are living in Aroostook County you can see what fawn mortality we have here. I think it’s probably close to 20% survival rate, maybe less. It’s been said before that there are other factors that are probably more important that need to be addressed in terms of protecting our deer than the youth hunting. I think it is important to keep the youth involved in hunting and if they have an opportunity to kill a doe the numbers are going to be statistically insignificant to the success of our deer. I used hunt, I’m originally from NY as well. Last year NY harvested 227,000 deer. You can imagine the culture shock I had when I came to Maine 6 years ago. As a matter of fact it was so significant that I no longer hunt deer in Maine because I’m a conservationist now and I strongly believe in conserving the deer. I hunt coyotes and I hunt bears, but I will not hunt deer. I think it would be wrong for us not to allow our youth to get out there and go on a deer hunt and tell them it would be better if you shot a buck, but if you see a deer go on and take it because its not going to matter much. I think its not going to matter much because those does are not being bred. There was a survey being conducted by the IF&W and they were looking at road killed deer trying to determine whether or not they were pregnant and when they were bred. I have not heard if that survey is continuing or if its concluded or what the results are. Many of us see does without fawns at the time of year when they should have fawns with them.
Less Phelps – Your state back in the early 1900’s shut down deer season in the southern zone for over 20 years. I think it was 1936 or 1937 when it first reopened because the herd was that bad.
James Michaud – I guess I’m looking at you guys and the laws that you guys have put as far as bucks only, there’s been a problem for years about deer when I was a kid. This bucks only was supposed to only come for about 5 years and now its been on for 20 years, and how much has that helped? Number two, IF&W or biologists need to stop allowing these big woodcutters cutting deer yards. They just butcher right through them. I worked 15 ½ years in the woods, I’ve seen it. You’ve got to stop cutting what the deer can go to. They start cutting these yards out and the deer have nothing to eat. Everybody blames it on the harsh winters, I don’t believe that. I want to tell you that because when most of you older guys were kids there was snow to the telephone wires then. I’ve seen pictures of at my grandfather’s where it’s right up to the top of the eaves and I remember as a kid I used to see all kinds of deer. I don’t believe the snow is doing it. We’re losing them to coyotes because there are so many, they’re overwhelming. We’ve got wolves here, believe it or not. We’ve got bears. I’m not going to say that a Canada lynx could kill a deer, but I’m not going to say they won’t. For a cat as big as they are, sharp claws, sharp teeth, I think a weak deer they could get. We have a lot of predators on our deer besides us, we’re the predators too we’re overkilling the deer but I don’t believe that. I’ve got two little kids, they both hunt. For 3 years I took my son out and we went down to the lower part of Maine for youth day. There was so much posted land down there, if they don’t know you they don’t want you there. We’ve done the right thing for 3 years and gone down state and we’ve gotten no deer down there. We’ve been where there was a lot of deer sign, but we didn’t get a deer because everybody that lives there is going to be there first and they live there so they know where to go. They could come up here and it would be like a needle in a haystack for them. I could show my kids lots of does. Every year we see lots of does. I’ve hunted a bunch of fields this year and I’ve seen 34 deer in one day in different fields and they were all does. Out of those packs of deer we were seeing, 2 lambs might be in there. A lot of big does with no lambs. That tells you that the deer, I don’t believe all the deer are getting bred. The bucks are way down. If you take two bucks at early season out of one area and 3 bucks in one area in a 10 mile radius, could stand a chance that next buck that comes in there is not going to breed 20+ does. Even a biologist has said that. They might breed 5 or 6 so then you’ve got 6-15 that aren’t bred and that happens every year.
Leo Kieffer – I’m from Caribou. I’ve opposed this anti-youth program since day one. I opposed it in the 8 years I was in the Senate, the 8 years I served on the IF&W Committee, I opposed it when I was on the SAM Board and I opposed it when I was on this group for 5 years. My basic reason for it is that its not based on science although some of you may think that it is. I have documentation here that will show you that its not. This was a proposal that came out of a Committee that Matt Libby chaired and it was one of the recommendations of 5 pages of recommendations which I have here that came out of that Committee. It was about the only single recommendation out of those 5 pages of recommendations that the Department accepted. Can anyone explain that to me? Why did they only accept one recommendation out of that Committee? And here’s something interesting. “Mr. Stadler stated the most important issue was the fact that the 2006 Fish and Wildlife Committee created the Northern Eastern Maine Task Force. The Task Force met over a year and they were charged with developing a series of recommendations. One of the recommendations that came out of the Task Force was that in any WMD where there were no deer permits that all hunters including archers and youth should not be allowed to take antlerless deer.” That was a recommendation we made to the Fish & Wildlife Committee for the work of the Task Force, we take it very seriously. If a Working Group makes a recommendation to the Department he did not feel that it was his place to override them. How can you accept one recommendation out of 5 pages and ignore the rest of them? It isn’t based on science. I fully support out biologists, we should listen to them and they should make some key decisions but they didn’t make this decision. This was done only to give that Committee a pat on the back and thank them for their work. No biology involved what-so-ever. I think that’s a very important point because if this was based on scientific data I’d be the first one to be here accepting it. I think another thing, some of the recommendations that came out of that group were to do something about the slaughter of deer on our highways. There were also recommendations in this about landowner relations programs which hasn’t happened. There were many recommendations in here that made a lot of sense, but to just single out that one has always just stuck in my craw. To only do it for no biological reason, but to just pat that Committee on the back. We have a lot of deer in Northern Maine now. The last two winters have been easy. West of Rt. 11 I’ll say no. If you really want to do something for the deer herd in Northern Maine close the season for 5 years west of Rt. 11. That’s where the problems are. I’ve had a camp over there since 1963 and I own 435 acres off the Pinkham Road and there aren’t any deer there. The cutting practices over there have pretty near wiped them out. But east of Rt. 11 in the last two years the deer has increased dramatically. Around Caribou you can’t imagine the amount of deer there are. You talk about accidents on the highway and the number of deer they would shoot in a day. Not this past winter, the winter before within a few miles of Ashland there were 55 deer killed on the highways. Now there isn’t any way in the world that our youth on youth day in Aroostook County would shoot 55 does. If we can’t do something about protecting the deer from our highways why are we trying to drive our youth away from our hunt? It doesn’t add up. To treat our youth differently than the youth in southern Maine doesn’t make any sense to me. You’ll also have heard that we should teach the kids to hunt under the same rules and conditions as the adults. I’ve heard that, why does that only apply to Northern Maine? Why doesn’t it apply to Southern Maine? In Southern Maine an adult down there has to go through the process of applying for a doe permit and by lottery they get a doe permit. Do the kids down there have to do that? What’s the difference? I’m supportive of our youth I always have been and I guess I always will be, but I also support our biologists and when something like this comes along that’s not based on biology, that’s just doing somebody a favor then I don’t want any part of it.
Dave Haler – Woodland. I don’t know all the politics, I don’t know who’s sleeping with who, I don’t know where all the budgets go and all that, I don’t want to know, but I do know as a child growing up my grandfather taught me ethics, taught me to hunt, fish and trap and taught me between right and wrong. You say I’ve gone to Patagonia doing this or all around, I can go anywhere I want and hunt, etc. that’s all good and well but people here in Aroostook County a lot of them are marginal income. They have to watch their money, so what happens is one of these kids doesn’t get to go, and he goes and hangs out with his buddies, they go get in trouble, they get into our state’s court system and they cost us as the citizens of Aroostook County when these guys are juvenile delinquents. They could have been kept out of that had they been able to go out and partake of our heritage here, but we don’t factor that in. It’s about the one deer. Your talking maybe 400 or 500 lbs. of venison to keep a kid out of the system because somebody showed them the time and concern. It does get a little old to go out there and not put something in the larder so to speak. You lose interest, you go do something else and they will. We can debate the science or this or that but I think all of us know from personal experience as children somebody developed and nurtured our interests in something and if we don’t allow that to happen here we’re going to pay for it later. We can always go grow deer somewhere if we need to. I think the bigger issue here is the youth not having one extra doe next year. I’m with Leo, close deer hunting in certain management areas where it is down and nobody goes there anyway because everybody knows there’s no deer. Let’s really think about the youth here and not about what is Joe going to think about me if I vote this way or that way. Vote for the kids.
Kurt Lane – Woodland. I just want to be clear that I’m for the ACCA and we’re totally committed to improving our deer herd. Our food plots program we have well over 200 acres in that spread all over the place in the woods, on the farms, we’re totally committed to it. If there was any science that said this handful of does would be detrimental to our herd, we would certainly rethink our position but there isn’t and most of the opposition I’m hearing from the Advisory Council are basing their opinions that its detrimental to the herd. It certainly doesn’t seem so to me from the information that I have it is not. All we are doing is depriving our children of the opportunity to hunt. If I’m correct part of IF&W’s mission is to give opportunity where available, or encourage it in our youth. Part of our bylaws certainly include that. To deny it simply on political thought and not use science while claiming to, that is what gives us a perception of Southern Maine ruling us. If there was logic, science involved you could put that in front of us we would certainly accept it. At this point there isn’t any.
Mr. Thurston stated that the Department identified deer yards and part of the effort to save deer was to rebuild them. The issue was that there was a legislative rule that it was a $2,000 fine to cut a deer yard. Nothing to do with the biologists. The companies would still put their machines in there and pay the fine. There was a misconception there. Mr. Thurston stated he had hunted for years and did not know one biologist until he got on the Advisory Council. They did know what they were doing, they were a well educated bright group of people. He had written down comments he heard at the meeting and he heard them saying there was no science to support what they were trying to decide. He felt the issue should stay on the agenda at Step 2 for another meeting and Mr. Kantar should be in attendance.
Mrs. Ware stated she appreciated the input on the predation by bear. That was a huge problem and she would like to see the Department be more aggressive on increasing the take on black bear.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the Legislature changed the law last year to allow the take of two bear, one by trapping and one by hunting. That may change in the future to allow 2 by hunting. Deputy Commissioner Erskine also addressed the comments made regards to deer yards. There was no state law or regulations. The Department worked extremely hard to enter into cooperative agreements with landowners, and that was what people had to keep in mind, it was their land and they could do pretty much what they wanted with it. The Department’s hands were somewhat tied when it came to cutting of deer wintering areas.
Mr. Wheaton also referred to the cutting of deer yards. It was hard to tell a private landowner what tree he could or couldn’t cut. He also referred to a comment from a member of the public that stated we didn’t want the youth to hunt. We were not proposing to take the hunt away from the youth, there were lots of other places in the state they could go and shoot a doe on youth day.
Mr. Connolly stated he was able to e-mail Rich Hoppe, regional biologist in Ashland, with some of the questions that had come up at the meeting. Mr. Connolly had also attended the Maine Professional Guides Association meeting the previous day and updated them on the game plan for deer. Landowner relations, we had just hired a new person, Mark Latti. Mr. Latti had begun working with industrial landowners, reaching out to them and making some contacts. At the same time, Mr. Hoppe and others received a grant to work with the Natural Resource Conservation Service and we had two biologists that were working with smaller landowners on managing deer wintering areas. Mr. Hoppe was meeting with a significant landowner in northern Maine and they had 24,000 acres of land under a cooperative management plan with the Department to manage the deer wintering area. They came to the biologists and stated they needed to change the cooperative agreement, they were removing a significant amount of acreage. Their reason was because of fiber agreements; there was a change in ownership, they bought the landbase, part of the obligation with that land was that they had to meet fiber agreements. Most of the fiber that was on the ownership that they had that could help them meet the agreements was in the deer wintering areas. They were taking 16,000 acres of land out of the cooperative agreements and reducing the acreage to 8,000. Looking at that and the jobs supported by the fiber agreements, it was a tough place. The Commissioner had discussed the issue with the Governor and the Governor was supportive of trying to find a new way to provide incentives on deer wintering areas to compensate landowners.
Mr. Connolly stated deer/car accidents, we had been working with DOT for several years getting signs in place, etc. We now had portable trailers with solar powered signs that could be moved into a spot where there were deer/car accidents. They were motion activated. It wasn’t just a selected observation out of the report that was taken. There were a number of things, some could be implemented sooner than others. The other piece of deer/car accidents was feeding. We were having problems with people feeding next to the road. We had started an effort educating and had gone back to the Legislature to get authority to site people when they were improperly feeding deer and causing accidents and to work with landowners to address the problem. SAM had started an initiative to work with feeding stores to provide posters to direct people on how to feed properly if they were going to do it.
Mr. Connolly stated the bear management system was being updated. There was a need to coordinate different species. Guides would like to promote bear hunting. The Commissioner was working with the Office of Tourism to get them to start promoting bear hunting and hunting experiences in Maine as they did in Canada. There was an effort by the guides working with the Department to promote bear hunting to increase the bear harvest which would help our moose and deer populations. The reproductive study had also been brought up. We were looking at road killed deer, and if there was a zone where we could not sample the does, that was a problem. In areas like Central Maine they would look at hunter killed deer, and look at the does to see whether or not they were lactating. Now biologists were working with wardens to identify areas where there were road kills and try to collect fetuses. Mr. Connolly read the statement he posed to Rich Hoppe, “Is there any evidence in the road kill work to show we have a bunch of does that are not being bred?” Mr. Hoppe’s response was, “No evidence of the kind. Last year Arland and I must have looked at 7 does with all having twins or triplets. This year since it was a mild winter, fewer deer were killed on the road ways, but those looked at had all twins.” Mr. Connolly then asked, “Is that East of Rt. 11?” Mr. Hoppe replied “He was observing movements of deer from the Western side of Rt. 11 over into the areas East of 11 where people were feeding deer.” Mr. Connolly stated they were starting to change where the deer were wintering now in response to lack of cover and people feeding. Mr. Hoppe stated, “I’m comfortable that what I’m sampling represents West of 11 as well as East of 11.” Mr. Connolly stated with spots on fawns, the mature does bred in November, the yearlings bred after that and then there were some fawns that bred in January. The bucks bred the most mature does which came into heat first. Then the yearlings came in. Even within does there was hierarchy and a biological drive to have the most successful most experienced does breed first. Their fawns were born earliest in the spring and they had the greatest run through to fall to get ready for winter; yearlings second, fawns last. If you had a fawn that was bred in January produces a fawn later in spring, into summer instead of in June the prime birthing time and then in the fall you would see a fawn with spots and they would be in small condition and less able to survive during the winter. It wasn’t necessarily indicative that there were does that weren’t being bred. Mr. Connolly stated he felt when you looked at a doe having 2 or 3 fawns that was a pretty significant contribution in a particular area. Mr. Kantar would be at the next meeting to talk about the biology. Mr. Connolly read Mr. Hoppe’s closing statement, “We are just getting some numbers back after 3 years of below average snowfall. I would hate to see youth hunting day start now. I would like to see it start once we were on target as decided by our management plan.”
Ron Picard – Frenchville. I’m a director of ACCA and also the Maine Trapper’s Association. I hear talk about taking our youth to go hunt down south in Maine and you people have to realize that financially up here its pretty tight and most people cannot do that. My friend hunts in Vermont. He wanted to be here today but would have to take a half day off from work and take his son out of school to come see what was going on and to talk. It makes it real hard for us to be up there to discuss with you people. These meetings are, the working man cannot be here. I support the youth hunt. Myself, we’ve got a farm up home and we are starting food plots to help the deer. Last year I had a lick station set up and its been there for 3 or 4 years. We never shot a deer on the farm. Last year we saw some deer and we figured we’d leave them, we weren’t going to take them. I’ve got pictures of 3 bucks at the lick at the same time, 6 and 8 pointers and 2 does with twins and as far as I know there’s at least 9 deer coming on the farm feeding where we’ve never seen any deer before. As far as I’m concerned the deer are picking up. I think the effort we are making here shooting coyotes and doing the feeding stations and food plots should be able to allow our youth to take a few deer. We are helping out to have them extra few deer around anyway. A lot of the deer coming in now are from New Brunswick. The deer population across is building up, they’re allowed to snare over there. They’re doing a good job on snaring and catching coyotes there. For us here, we’re tied. I used a snare and a few of us used a snare and we know what works and what doesn’t work. Shooting does nothing, but that’s the only thing we have. You’re talking about target numbers. What’s the target number on lynx? I’m for the youth being able to hunt.
Randy Swafford – Woodland. I’d just like to make a few comments. I do support our youth. There’s one thing I learned a long time ago, as sportsmen we have to give it to keep it. I think everybody here knows that’s true. It’s our hunting heritage. I also believe that as sportsmen and you people on the Advisory Council, we should be able to find some middle ground to support our youth. I just want to go on record to say that I believe our youth should be able to take a doe on youth day as their first deer and after that, after they harvest one, I think they should go to bucks only. I also believe that in spite of our last few good winters that we’ve had I really believe that our deer herd can support a youth day.
James Michaud stated regarding Mr. Hoppe’s comments that we probably shouldn’t allow the youth to do that, but on Channel 8 news he said that the deer herd was up, they had a good 3 years and encouraging hunters to go buy a license because it was going to be overwhelming with deer. We had a head biologist saying everybody should buy a license because it was going to be a good year, but yet we’re just asking for one thing for our youth.
Mr. Connolly stated he believed Mr. Hoppe was talking about hunting bucks. One of the things he was concerned about out in the bigger woods, because the deer wintering areas had been compromised, we still wanted to keep the buck population in balance because the habitat had been damaged.
Mr. Philbrick discussed a deer wintering yard financial proposal he had worked on with others. The process was difficult. What they had discussed years ago as a tax incentive was now called Tree Growth. In Southern Maine and the Western Mountains of Maine there was currently a public outcry as to how some were viewing Tree Growth being abused. He was in favor of the youth hunt and had been from the start. His grandfather had taught him to hunt, and it was the total concept that had stayed with him.
Mr. Kieffer referred to Advisory Council minutes from a year ago, under Any-deer permits, youth deer day, “Mr. Thurston stated he would like to know what the Department’s biological opinion was.” “Commissioner Woodcock stated that there would be insignificant impact. He had talked it over with biologists and had been told there weren’t very many deer killed on youth day.” Mr. Kieffer stated it was an academic issue, it shouldn’t even be talked about when you’re talking about youth day and biology because it wasn’t based on that. It was based on picking one item out of a committee study. Mr. Kieffer stated the Forest Practices Act was what needed to be overhauled by the Legislature. He was on the Conservation Committee when the Act was discussed and passed. At that time they did not have the deer problem. There was great opposition to meld deer management and forestry practices. As a result, it was not done and he still felt it was a mistake.
Rob Kieffer – Caribou. ACCA, I just would like to say I’ve been a landowner for a few years and have seen the deer herd on our particular land improve as what I think is a direct result of the efforts this group has put together. Between the feed and the attempt to eradicate some of the coyote population its really made a difference on our land. We’ve seen more deer the last two years than any of the 5 years before that. I understand the winters have been a little bit easier, but there are definitely fewer coyotes in our area. I happen to groom some ski trails about 5 kilometers in the particular area where I live and I know from being out there almost on a daily basis that there are fewer coyotes and the deer have rebounded almost immediately. I think that type of management whether its here or around the state can make a difference and I’d like to see the state actually starting to adopt that as their deer management plan. In going back to that plan, did Mr. Hoppe as far as the youth day being reinstated, do you know what the numbers are as to what that magic number in Aroostook County would be so the biologists would say that it’s a good idea?
Mr. Connolly stated he did not have the exact number but there was a working group assembled and they set population targets of so many deer per square mile for each of the WMDs. We could have Mr. Kantar speak to that.
Robb Kieffer – I would like to follow up, in addition to what this gentleman to my left was saying I agree that with the kids you’ve got a very narrow window of opportunity to hook them and I personally, just so its very clear, I’m in favor of the youth hunt. I just don’t see statistically, at least what I’ve been told or what I’ve heard today or in the past, where the numbers are going to have any impact at all. The other thing that ties into that is I think that with a little bit of education to the people with the guides and parents that take these children out hunting, to me its about having a chance. I’ve coached kids skiing for the last dozen years and some years I’ve had 60 and 65 kids on the team. I kind of make it a point to ask them what they like to do when they’re not skiing. Almost never do they say hunting. I’ll ask them why not, they say because they don’t have a chance. I think that kids would go hunting a lot more frequently if they knew they had a chance. They’re not all going to shoot does just because they have a chance, especially if they’re educated. I think if you educate and teach about being sports people I think you’re going to find that they may go. We’ll sell the licenses, but they don’t necessarily have to kill something. I’ve got 3 daughters that have all hunted. Sometimes they choose to shoot something, sometimes they don’t but they like to go because they know they have a chance.
Mr. Kelly stated if they did find out on the Council that the whole thing started from a working group’s recommendation and didn’t come directly from the biologists, so there was nothing behind it as far as the biology of it, then that did put it in a different light. Some people did think it came right from the Department. People up north that didn’t have the opportunity to take their kids on a youth day hunt, they could youth day hunt, but it was the opportunity. Those people taught too. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to take them, they had to generate the interest. When talking about making exceptions, we said we couldn’t make exceptions in rule but we did. Same as with the doe permits, there was an exception made there that kids did not have to apply for doe permits and more than likely when biologists came up with their doe permit numbers, they factored in the number of does taken on youth day. Those were taken out of what the general public would get. The final thing, it was 121 deer in all the years they could shoot either or, that’s all it ever was.
Mrs. DeMerchant asked Mr. Connolly what Rich Hoppe’s title was.
Mr. Connolly stated he was the Regional Wildlife Biologist for Region G which was Northern Maine.
Mrs. DeMerchant stated did he or did he not say it would be a mistake to reinstate the youth hunt at this point and time?
Mr. Connolly stated Mr. Hoppe was not in favor of it until the herd had recovered to a point where the population was at target.
There were no further comments.
C. Step 1
1. Wolf hybrid rules
Mr. Connolly stated this was something that came about with a change in Legislation. The Department now had authority over wolf hybrids. Agriculture used to handle wolf hybrids; they were considered a domestic animal. The Legislature acted and changed the authority and jurisdiction for wolf hybrids over to IF&W. They also allowed any wolf hybrids currently in Maine to continue to be licensed as canids through towns. IF&W now has the authority to establish rules and is required to establish rules for the possession and importation of wolf hybrids. The drafted language was in the Council’s packet. We were not going to issue propagation permits, we were not going to allow people to breed them. We were not going to allow people to exhibit or show them. The wolf hybrids would be required to be spayed or neutered and tattooed or micro chipped and they would also have to be confined fairly closely. We did allow for them to be kept as pets. The challenge was currently all the wolf hybrids that were in the state that were licensed as of June 1, 2011 could be kept as pets. Moving forward one of the worst things we could do for a domestic animal in terms of its personality was to confine it in a cage and segregate it. Having those people be able to manage those animals as pets was important. We would require they be kept under the owner’s control and they were responsible if anything happened.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated there was a legislator that had wolf hybrids in his town and was concerned about the safety of people that were allowed to go in. He insisted that IF&W needed to be a part of it. We were now faced with implementing these rules. It was another program that the Department was responsible for.
Mrs. Ware stated as was discussed at the last meeting, how many were licensed by Agriculture in that 2011 timeframe that the Department would now be responsible for?
Mr. Connolly stated we did not have the number yet. They were required to register with Agriculture and they would have a database. When an animal died they would have to report to Agriculture and it would be taken off the record and then we would have a record of all the ones going forward. He would try to get a number from Agriculture for the next meeting.
Mr. Philbrick stated in the case of a wolf hybrid going to a pound, were they going to be euthanized?
Mr. Connolly stated currently if your dog got loose and was taken to the animal shelter, there was a 6-day holding period. In discussions with the Attorney General’s Office, they felt that was appropriate to build in a 6-day period before automatically euthanizing what could be someone’s pet. The proposed rule would mimic how they would be handled through the Agricultural standard to make it the same. We did have to add a provision to provide payment to those shelters. During next year’s session we planned to go back to the Legislature and increase the fee for owners of wolf hybrids by $25 to begin building a fund to cover the cost of housing stray animals that we were obligated to help recover and house until they were placed or euthanized.
A member of the public asked why these weren’t listed as an exotic animal. Was the money he gave the Department for a license going to pay for that animal to be in a shelter should it get out?
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated what we were proposing to do, and it may have been an oversight by the Legislature not to include a fee for IF&W, Agriculture paid the shelter $4 per day for each day they kept the animal. We were proposing to capture that $25 fee and it would be paid by the permittee and set up a fund so that if issues arose we would have the money available and license holders would not be paying for it.
Mr. Philbrick stated in initial discussions it was stated that in order to be identified as a wolf hybrid all one had to do was state that it was. Had that changed?
Mr. Connolly stated no, that was carried in Human Services rules and in Agriculture’s and we had brought it over into IF&W’s as well. Mr. Connolly read the definition of a wolf hybrid.
Paul Camping asked if there was a limit on the number they could possess.
Mr. Connolly stated currently as a pet under Agriculture’s rules, no. We had not proposed a limit in terms of a possession permit. They had to show they had the cage facilities and the ability to care for them and if they got out we had the ability to charge them with allowing a wolf hybrid to be at large.
Paul Camping stated his concern was for the deer herd and the possibility of the illegal reintroduction of wolves.
Mr. Connolly stated there was a state law that prohibited the introduction and release of wolves into Maine. Wolf hybrids would not be allowed to be brought into the state without permitting through IF&W. We were required to handle, such as a dog at large, people in town calling it in. There was a provision in the statute that if a suspected wolf hybrid was at large the Animal Control officer could contact IF&W and ask for assistance.
Paul Camping inquired about inspection of kennels where wolf hybrids were kept.
Mr. Connolly stated with all animals that were permitted through IF&W under possession permits, the Department had the ability to do an on sight inspection and a check to see if someone was complying with the licensing requirements. We also had the ability to inspect when they applied for or renewed a permit or as the result of a complaint.
Mr. Philbrick stated this had been going on for at least 15 years and Department of Agriculture had been overseeing it. It was now at IF&W and he felt it was a better fit having the wardens and biologists to deal with it.
There were no further comments.
2. WMD 24 Expanded Archery Zone Revision
Mr. Connolly stated we had a request from the public to examine WMD 24. It’s an area where we’ve had expanded archery opportunity as well, there’s a significant human population in that area and access was challenging. Deer seemed to thrive in and around those subdivisions. We had tried to increase the hunting opportunity in that area to handle the deer population. We had a concern from the Town of Phippsburg that was open to firearms hunting, that the expanded archery season was impacting their ability to hunt. The intent for expanded archery was to only be in areas where firearms hunting was not allowed. In Phippsburg there was firearms hunting allowed and the population was being controlled with hunting. The hunters had requested for the Department to discontinue the expanded archery hunt within the Town of Phippsburg. We sent a copy of the proposal to the Maine Bowhunters Association and they responded that they were in favor of ensuring there were no conflicts between bowhunters and firearms and they were supportive of withdrawing Phippsburg from the expanded archery season.
Mrs. Ware asked if we also reached out to the Phippsburg Rod and Gun Club.
Mr. Connolly stated they came to us. Reggie Read and others had given us input.
There were no further comments.
V. Other Business
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated regarding the comment that was made about the meeting being held when the working person was not able to come. We had offered to hold a public hearing on the youth day proposal, but she had been told it was felt by a lot of people that it was more important to be able to address the Council.
Mr. Kelly stated he was the one that asked to have the Council meeting in Northern Maine.
A member of the public asked to discuss antler point restrictions.
Mr. Kelly stated he believed that was to be an agenda item under Other Business for the meeting.
Paul Camping – Caribou, Vice-President ACCA. The ACCA believes we have a shortage of bucks and a breeding success issue in this county. I think its important to focus like a laser on important issues. Things that we’re doing that may be hurting the deer instead of helping them. One of the things with the dates of our hunting season. Most of our does are bred during the third week of November. This year in 2012 that will be roughly between November 11 and 17. When I lived in New York, biologists there had pin pointed the peak breeding activity at November 14. We’re a little bit farther north in latitude, our climate’s a little different, but we’re in the same ball park. New York’s hunting season began November 18 for firearms. They allowed their bucks to breed the does. We have a better idea in Maine, we want to take half of our mature bucks off the landscape before the does are bred. That seems counter productive and counter intuitive. If you don’t want to change the date of the hunting season for social reasons then at least lets impose an antler point restriction on what we can shoot up here because that would leave more bucks in the woods to breed the does when they’re fertile. That’s one of the primary reasons why we want to have an antler point restriction program that would run in WMDs 1-6 for a period of no longer than 5 years. That is to increase the number of mature bucks available for breeding and which will eventually lead to older deer, more mature deer.
Mrs. DeMerchant asked in WMDs 1-6 would he also restrict the youth from taking those bucks that didn’t fall into that antler restriction?
Mr. Camping stated that would be counterproductive, you couldn’t be for one and not the other. The answer was no, the youth would still be allowed to take an antlerless deer or a buck of any description.
Mr. Kelly stated he had brought a petition down and they had talked about it being under Other Business. Lee Kantar was at the last meeting and there was some discussion. Mr. Kelly thought it would be under Step 1 in May or June.
Mr. Philbrick stated when Mr. Kelly presented the petition, he was told the signatures needed to be verified. The petition was in Augusta, but there had not been verification of the signatures.
Mr. Kelly stated the petition was for 3 points or greater. We knew today that genes were genes and if a deer was going to be 10 points at 4 years old because he’s a spike he has that gene and he’s going to pass that gene on. If we had an antler restriction it would leave those young bucks, they breed and it would leave those young bucks in the woods ensuring that all the does were being bred. No one really knew if they were or not. Looking at the deer herd, having an antler point restriction was not going to hurt. If its not going to adversely effect the deer herd and there was a population of deer hunters that were willing to have that rule in, why not?
Mr. Connolly stated he had received e-mail from Mr. Kantar regarding whether does were being bred or not. Based on road kill data of known aged deer among yearling and older does 95% were pregnant, move up one age class and do not include the yearlings and the rate would be 99%. Currently we were not having a problem with does being bred. Mr. Connolly recalled conversations with Mr. Kantar regarding states where they had the point restrictions they were doing it because they had hammered their young bucks to the point where they had a despaired age structure. Those states were trying to get back to where Maine already was. Mr. Kantar did not recommend putting this in place.
Mr. Connolly stated when you looked at the harvest, an number of those young bucks were taken and some had substantial points as well. Spikes were typically yearlings and in some parts of the state a yearling could have 6 points. There was a great difference throughout the state when looking at antler beams based on winters. A winter impacted two generations of deer, the fetus that the doe was carrying; if the winter was mild that fawn was born in the spring with a higher birth weight and got to the fall in better condition. If there was a following mild winter when it got to be a yearling it had a better rack. Mr. Kantar did not endorse the idea as one that he felt would have a beneficial impact at all on Maine.
Mrs. Ware stated she thought he specifically said it would not benefit the number of deer in the population of deer in Maine positively.
Mr. Wheaton stated it was their County. If it wasn’t going to hurt anything, it should be looked at hard.
Jerry McLaughlin – New Sweden, ACCA President. I talked with Lee Kantar on this and researched this issue of antler restriction. When I talked to Lee I asked if I don’t shoot that little spike this year, that adds one more to it. His comment was, a coyote was going to kill it anyway. I said, is that biology at its best? I said, when I was a young feller I’ve seen 4 deer in the field and you can bet it would be a buck a doe and two lambs. Now I’m seeing 8 and 10 does and not a buck. So, where’s the buck? He said they stay in the woods, they don’t come out where you can see them. So, I went to Shawn Haskell, I wasn’t happy with Lee and I’d tell him if he was right here. I went to Shawn and I talked about antler restrictions. Shawn said it worked in Vermont, that’s where I’m from. Then I hear some say it didn’t work in VT. I went to PA two falls ago and I hunted out there. When they brought on the antler restriction it was to build more and bigger bucks. The hunters and sportsmen didn’t like it at first, now they love it and they’re killing some nice bucks. Like it was said we were never going to build up the guides with a deer hunt here unless you bring back the mature bucks. What harm is it going to do to put an antler restriction on? None, it’s going to make more bucks and bigger bucks and I’m in favor of it.
Joe Chasse – I cut moose and deer up. Three years ago I cut 11 deer up and ½ were over 200 lbs. Last year I cut 5 deer up and they were 1 – 200lb and then they dropped down to 110lbs. This year I cut 13 up, I didn’t get a 200 pounder. ¾ of them were 4 pointers and just spikes. There were more little deer being shot than big deer.
Ron Picard – We’ve been doing this bucks only hunt here for 25 or 30 years now and we’re worse off than we’ve ever been. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with experimenting. Let’s try it for 4 or 5 years and if it doesn’t work we’re not losing anything, but we might gain something.
Mr. Kelly stated he would like to have discussed at the next meeting, the ACCA coyote contest. The Department had a coyote program now and there was money involved in that, was there any way we could help clubs out that put on these kinds of hunts and were producing results as far as coyotes being taken in high predation areas.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine asked the Council if it was their intent to hold Youth Any-deer permits at Step 2 for the next meeting.
The Council agreed that the Youth Any-deer permits proposal should remain at Step 2, and Lee Kantar should attend the next meeting.
There were no further comments.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
See “Other Business”.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 1:00 p.m. in Washington County.
A motion was made by Mr. Thurston and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 4:15 p.m.
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