These whitetail does check out a nearby hunting party in northeast Somerset County during the moose hunt in October 2017. State biologists have recommended a 28 percent increase in any-deer permits for the 2018 hunting season. The 84,745 permits awarded will be the most since Maine implemented the any-deer permit system in 1986. Credit: Pete Warner

A year after the state issued the most any-deer permits in its history, wildlife biologists have scaled back the proposal for this year’s permit allocation by 19.6 percent, to 68,145.

The state’s deer biologist said while the number is a decrease year-over-year, the total is still the second highest for any-deer permits in the past 15 years.

“I would consider this year a return to more of the ballpark of normalcy, rather than as a decrease,” said Nathan Bieber of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Last year was a record year by quite a bit, and a lot of that last year was because we’d been under-harvesting does in a lot districts for a long time running.”

Bieber said most of the permit reductions will take place in northern Maine, where a severe winter likely killed more deer. In three Wildlife Management Districts — 7, 12 and 13 — biologists are proposing a total reduction, from 400, 400 and 475, respectively, to zero for 2019.

Any-deer permits, also widely referred to as “doe permits,” allow a hunter to shoot an antlerless deer during the hunting seasons. In general, those without any-deer permits are restricted to shooting bucks. The state allocates those permits via a free-to-enter lottery each year.

The recommendation of the biological staff was made at last week’s monthly meeting of the DIF&W advisory council, as part of the department’s three-part rulemaking process. Any tinkering to the proposal will take place at the June meeting, while an up or down vote on the proposal will be taken in July.

Bieber explained that biologists consider a lot of data before making recommendations on any-deer permit numbers.

“We have estimates of how much mortality we can sustain in each district. Coupled with the current sex and age structure for a district, we can provide an estimate of how many does we can still afford to lose while maintaining a stable population,” Bieber said. “So we have this baseline idea of how many does we can afford to lose, and we tweak that based on things like winter severity and over- and under-harvested does and some issues associated with locally overabundant deer like road kill, lyme disease and nuisance complaints.”

The DIF&W is also taking steps to address overabundant deer in two specific pieces of WMDs 25 and 26.

In District 25, parts of Georgetown and Arrowsic will benefit from a small number of bonus deer permits, which will allow hunters to shoot both a buck and a doe this fall. The same situation will exist in parts of Orrington, Bucksport and Orland, according to Bieber.

Hunters will be able to apply for bonus permits in those two areas in the normal any-deer permit lottery.

Recent any-deer permit allocations:

— 2019: 68,145 (proposed)

— 2018: 84,745

— 2017: 66,050

— 2016: 45,755

— 2015: 28,770

And finally, the number of deer that hunters registered each year since 2000:

— 2018: 32,438

— 2017: 27,233

— 2016: 23,512

— 2015: 20,325

— 2014: 22,490

— 2013: 24,217

— 2012: 21,365

— 2011: 18,839

— 2010: 20,063

— 2009: 18,092

— 2008: 21,062

— 2007: 28,885

— 2006: 29,918

— 2005: 28,148

— 2004: 30,926

— 2003: 30,313

— 2002: 38,153

— 2001: 27,769

— 2000: 36,885

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...