A deer pauses and checks out its surrounding in a field off Route 202 in Bangor on April 14, 2020. Credit: Natalie Williams | BDN

Only 15 to 17 percent of deer hunters in Maine successfully put venison on the table.

Even so, 2021 was an outstanding year for deer hunters across the state.

Saturday was the final day of the state’s muzzleloader hunt, which brought down the curtain on the season. And while the official numbers likely won’t be available for another month or so, the harvest was robust.

Since September hunters killed 38,889 deer across the expanded archery, archery/crossbow, firearms and muzzleloader seasons, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Big Game Harvest Dashboard.

That is the highest deer kill in Maine since 1968, when 41,080 deer were registered. It is the eighth highest total since the state began keeping such records in 1919.

This year’s harvest represents an approximately 17 percent increase over 2020, when 33,159 deer were taken. Last year’s harvest was the highest in 18 years.

DIF&W deer biologist Nathan Bieber recently explained that an abundant deer population in many areas and lots of hunters in the woods were two of the key factors in this year’s success.

Bieber also pointed to the record number of any-deer permits, of which 153,910 were issued, as another dynamic that may have contributed to the high harvest.

“The amount of available opportunity certainly factors in as well,” Bieber said. “With a lot of permits available to harvest does, especially bonus permits allowing hunters to take an antlerless deer and then continue to buck hunt, we’re hoping to see significantly more antlerless harvest.”

That information should be forthcoming in early 2022 after DIF&W completes its compilation and analysis of the data.

The decade of the 1950s was the heyday of Maine deer hunting. The all-time record was established in 1959 when 41,735 deer were tagged. That was slightly higher than the 41,730 deer killed in 1951.

Third on the all-time list is 1968 (41,080).

The 1950s also produced the Nos. 4-7 deer harvest totals with 40,290 in 1956 and 40,152 in 1957, followed by 1958 (39,393) and 1950 (39,216).

How did your season go? I would love to hear your deer hunting stories from this year.

If you had a special or unusual hunt, feel free to provide a few details and a photo by sending an email to outdoors@bangordailynews.com. I look forward to possibly sharing your story with Bangor Daily News readers.

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...