*Editor’s Note:* Below is a rebuttal to a rebuttal. What originally began as an Op-Ed written by Robert Provencher of Maine, “The Argument for Whitetail Antler Restrictions in Maine“, resulted in a rebuttal by Rod Cumberland of New Brunswick, Canada called, “A Rebuttal About Whitetail Deer Antler Restrictions“. The opinions and information provided in these editorials, op-eds and rebuttals isn’t necessarily the opinions of the Black Bear Blog or its adminstrator.

Finally! The province of New Brunswick has weighed in on antler point restrictions in Maine with a rebuttal to “The Argument for Whitetail Antler Restrictions in Maine” from its chief deer biologist, Rod Cumberland. It’s curious to me though that I’ve heard nothing back from Maine Commissioner of IF&W, Chandler Woodcock. I personally had given the commissioner a copy of this op-ed for his review and comment prior to its being published here on the Black Bear Blog and later in the June edition of The Maine Sportsman.

Mr. Cumberland’s assertion that “there are few BIG bucks in Maine because there are FEW DEER in Maine” is spot-on. However, the percentage of those few BIG bucks (2-1/2+ years) to the total herd is much lower than it could be with APR management in place.

Maybe Mr. Cumberland misunderstood my article. I’m not advocating shooting does instead of bucks. I’m in favor of not killing does AND little bucks. I want more deer of all kinds with a bias toward quality (i.e., older bucks).

Quality deer management is all about allowing little bucks to mature into big bucks. Brook trout have to be at least 6” long to keep in Maine. Catch-and-release doesn’t work with whitetails.

Hard data is difficult to come by. Until recently, the Maine DIF&W managed the Maine deer herd under the assumption that (in at least two WMDs) the deer densities were “about 20 deer per square mile”. After the aerial surveys, Lee Kantar [head deer biologist at Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife] discovered that the density was “likely less than 15 deer per square mile”.

Tom Remington (Black Bear Blog), in referencing an article by John Holyoke (Bangor Daily News), questioned Kantar’s quote in an April 18th article by asking the obvious. “So if it’s less than 15, is it 14.5 or 2?” Remington expanded: “What makes me “overly” concerned is that after one winter of flying over 2 Wildlife Management Districts (there is) a rush to chop permits by 46%. This should be overly concerning to everyone because it tells me estimated deer populations, by modeling, in the southern part of the state aren’t anywhere near what MDIFW thought they were. Making a 46% adjustment isn’t “staying on top of the game”. If that’s the case, what else isn’t quite what MDIFW thinks it is?”

Mr. Cumberland maintains that best estimates of buck-to-doe ratios in Maine are at 1 to 2. Does any Maine hunter really believe the buck-to-doe ratio in Maine is 1 to 2? I want to see the empirical data on this metric!

Reducing either sex permits by 46% in those WMDs where they haven’t already been completely eliminated is necessary in my book to help bring back the total size of the deer herd in Maine. But, now hunting pressure is either exclusively or at least keenly focused on buck deer. Wouldn’t it make sense to take some of that pressure off 1-1/2 year old bucks? Do we have to wait until the problem gets worse (e.g., Pennsylvania) before taking action?

It’s true that a small number of bucks are able to inseminate a much larger population of available does. But no way can they do it in a single estrus cycle. Late born fawns will do better in Pennsylvania winters. In Maine, late born fawns will be the first to succumb to winter kill …if they make it past the gauntlet of coyotes here in Maine. A drawn out rut exhausts the few breeding bucks to the point that they too are at risk to Maine’s winter kill.

Read this page from Buckscore about the negative affects of skewed buck-doe ratios:

“Breeding is mainly controlled by photoperiod (day length) and genetics, but adult buck to doe ratio can also greatly affect when fawns are born. In many areas of the whitetail’s range, there are too many does than bucks and this can have profound effects on the herd.

If the ratio is too skewed towards does, there likely won’t be enough bucks to bred all the does coming in to estrus during the rut, causing the does to come back into estrus again 28 days later, and the cycle repeats until she is bred. This causes fawning to occur over a longer period of time, which can cause issues.”

As far as being accused of contempt for government, I guess I’m guilty.

Harry Vanderweide sums it up pretty good for me in the June Sportsman. “In the past, the legislature voted to match 20 percent of the Department’s budget with money from the state’s General Fund. They then ignored the law they passed and didn’t allocate the dollars. When Governor Paul LePage was running for office, he promised he’d include $16 million from the General Fund in his budget to better fund the Department. So far, he’s not kept that promise.”

Mr. Cumberland’s rebuttal contains good points. Some of those points are in my opinion out of context here in present day Maine. There is one of Rod’s assertions, however, with which I am in total agreement. “One thing is certain, APR’s do lower buck kill, so maybe hunters in Maine would like this – it would be a benefit. However, if you have very few deer, the salvation of your deer herd does not lie in the use of an Antler Point Restriction.“

You’re correct Mr. Cumberland. The salvation of the Maine deer herd lies in the proper funding of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Bob Provencher
Freeport, Maine