Two deer stand alert in the tall grass. Credit: Melissa Huang

In September, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife announced the winners of more than 109,000 “any-deer” and “bonus” permits, which allow hunters to shoot deer that do not have antlers.

For the uninitiated, the any-deer system can be a bit confusing. And after a longtime master Maine guide called the BDN on Monday to say he and other midcoast hunters weren’t exactly sure how bonus and any-deer permits could be legally used, a call to the state’s deer biologist seemed in order.

Here is what you need to know about using your any-deer or bonus permits.

Bonus permits are just what they sound like, according to the DIF&W’s Nathan Bieber: Some hunters who were drawn to receive an any-deer permit also receive a bonus permit, which allows them to take a second animal.

“The any-deer permit is an either-sex permit and you can take a buck or a doe with it. A bonus permit is for antlerless deer only, and lets you take an additional antlerless deer,” Bieber said. “If, for example, you went and bought your regular hunting license, that lets you take a buck anywhere in the state. But if you also won a bonus permit in the lottery, for whatever district that permit is for, you can take another antlerless deer on top of the buck that you take with the regular permit.”

And if the hunter took a doe with their any-deer permit, they can then use their bonus permit to take a second doe in a specified Wildlife Management District.

Further complicating matters is this: Some hunters received multiple bonus deer permits. Bieber said there’s an easy explanation for that.

“The way the lottery goes is, we first issue the any-deer permits, and if there are extras, meaning there are more permits than people who applied, then the extra permits get distributed as bonus permits,” Bieber said. “And if there are so many permits [available] that even after distributing the bonus permits there are still more left over, they will be allocated in a second round of bonus permits, so people could get multiple bonus permits.”

In WMD 25, which includes much of the midcoast — some of the best deer territory in the state — 16,530 any-deer permits were issued, and some hunters received an any-deer permit and two bonus permits for this season.

“If you get an any-deer permit for a district, that doesn’t let you take an additional deer. That just lets you take a buck or a doe in that district. The bonus permit is what you need to take an extra deer,” Bieber said.

Adding to the potential confusion is the ongoing expanded archery season, which stretches from Sept. 12 to Dec. 12 in more urban areas where bowhunting is the only safe way to help manage the deer herd.

“The expanded archery permits are sort of their own thing. You can purchase an expanded archery buck permit to be able to shoot a buck in expanded archery [areas], or as many antlerless expanded archery permits as you want,” Bieber said.

Check here to find more information on the state’s any-deer permit system.

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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...