For A New Generation, Are These The Good Old Days Of Deer Hunting?

ArrayFebruary 2, 2017 at 10:54 am

By Chuck Hulsey, IFW Wildlife Biologist I grew up in southern Maine in the 1960s. Nobody in my immediate family hunted. That said, my father grew up in Depression-era Arkansas and Oklahoma and hunted small game to help put food on the table. Later, with the exception of ports of call in foreign countries during WWll, he never again picked up a gun until I was 11 years old. I became interested in learning to shoot a gun, so after completing a hunter safety course at the Windham Rod and Gun Club, he started me with squirrels down back of the house in Gorham. This soon followed with deer hunting in the Kezar Falls area, 25 miles west of Portland. We hunted every Saturday. The first three years Dad hunted with a gun borrowed from a friend. I never even saw a deer my first few years. Deer hunting for me consisted of breakfast at an ungodly hour, followed by a very long day walking and sitting in the woods, seeing only squirrels, which I was forbidden to shoot. Our lack of success was due to lower deer numbers compared to today plus my father’s lack of experience hunting northern white-tailed deer. It was always hard to find a place to hunt that wasn’t crowded. Every pull-out had hunters. We always encountered other hunters in the woods. Then through my older brother Richard we expanded our hunting circle and focused on the Porter area in northern York County, found bigger woods, and slightly fewer hunters. It was five years before someone in my group got a deer when I was present. I would get my first chance at a deer when I was 16, and was successful. Dad had two by then, but very few other chances. Three years ago, with my father at age 93, I took him for drive one warm April day. We visited all the places we used to hunt around Porter. We were pleased to find all of our old haunts mostly undeveloped and still open to hunting. Southern Maine’s regional wildlife biologist Scott Lindsay tells me that hunting pressure today is far lower than what I describe to him. I suspect deer numbers today are higher than when we hunted that area. With fewer hunters, more deer, and good access, might these be the good old days? They certainly would be for me if I could find a way to teleport those early years of deer hunting with family and friends to the year 2017. Today my “deer hunting” consists mainly of locating hunters who have registered a deer. In November I focus all my work on collecting biological data from deer harvested during the firearms season. I and fellow regional wildlife biologists use these data to make the recommendations for the number of Any-Deer Permits in the Wildlife Management Districts within our perspective regions. Region D, where I work, is bounded at its corners by Bethel, Skowhegan, The Forks, and Coburn Gore. This past November, I encountered many non-resident hunters at the game registration station in Eustis as well as deer hunting camps in that area. Many were successful in getting a deer, no doubt helped by last year’s mild winter and higher than average winter survival. I get the opportunity to talk with a lot of hunters as I collect biological data and samples from their deer. To a person, every non-resident hunter told me they have been coming to the Eustis area for 15, 20, even 30 years. They value the chance to hunt big woods and not encounter other deer hunters. Access to land is excellent and free. There is tracking snow many years. They have a chance to take a good buck, perhaps a trophy buck. Hunting the same area year in and year out increases their chances. Most years they won’t fill their tag, but they keep coming back because the northern half of Maine offers a quality deer hunting experience unlike anywhere else. Might these be the “good old days” for the youngsters they take deer hunting today?