The Changing Face of Hunting in Maine

 

© 2010 BN REECE

 A few years back Aroostook County was devastated by a severe winter. Some reports had it that we had lost 40% of our whitetails that winter. In the end the death toll was reported by field personal of IFW to be more into the area of 52%. As attested to by the skull counts in the yards. Some of the deer had clear signs on them that coyotes had fed on them. But it was unclear as to how many were actually killed by coyotes. Not just gnawed on as carrion.

We were hit again the next year with a massive snowfall that further devastated the thinned herd. Again, nature and predation killed a lot of deer and the herd got smaller. Efforts to curtail this downward spiral were implemented and doe permits were pulled from hunters in Aroostook. As was the case the year before, youth hunters and bowman all lost their options, to save our deer.

Here we are 4 years out from the devastation and we have had a mild winter to close out year 3. The deer are being allowed to replace their number. But the land as it was is forever altered. The deer have not only lost generations of genes.  But the yards are going away faster than deer can adapt. These shoddy woods practices are killing deer as sure as a coyote will.

Further proof of the severe decline of the deer herd is the sudden drop in the coyote population. With no deer to eat and the small game long ago eliminated. Vast areas are seeing coyotes going mangy and just evaporating into the winter’s snows. As is nature’s way the land cannot support her predators without its prey.

An increase in populations of rabbits, grouse and foxes signifies to those who are woods wise. That coyotes are fewer now than they have been for quite some time. This must be kept in check and the deer allowed to rebound without them. Snaring must be brought back and deployed all over the state to keep the deer herds safer. An incidental lynx is the price of preventing the extinction of our deer and our hunting traditions. Now obviously an increase in rabbits is key to the survival of lynx, their primary food source. So a point could be made that culling coyotes actually promotes a better environment for the endangered lynx. Therefore an incidental loss can be tolerated for the greater good of lynx in general.

A new day looms on the horizon for Maine hunters. Hard decisions will have to be made and informed compromises negotiated among the parties involved. QDM is the wave of the future and our only hope to retrieve our proud deer hunting traditions. QDM is Quality Deer Management. The intelligent application of scientific dietary information that insures the health and the well being of our deer. So far IFW has failed to apply even the most basic knowledge of QDM. Deer cannot thrive or even survive without food! Look at the wintering areas all over the state. How can we support the upward expansion of deer numbers when their wintering areas a being geometrically reduced and outright eliminated.

I have seen groups like ACCA; Aroostook County Conservation Association, develope working agreements with Irving Forest Lands to seed the logging roads of Aroostook to feed our deer. QDM is at work in the Northwoods. Furthermore, I have talked to hunters, guides and woodlot owners who have taken up the challenge and are seeding our future. They are not waiting for Augusta. We cannot wait for a beaurocrat to find “his angle” in this, to see that it benefits us all.

Part of this new day is Hunting Leases. Yes I said it!!

 In a state that prides itself on having more woods to hunt than most states have state. We are at a crisis point with our deer management and with access. In the North we have vast tracks to wonder. Granted the deer are fewer and the moose are still here, along with bears a plenty. But to the south the land is posted so much in so many places. How can the state justify selling a license without insuring some kind of access? That would be like selling cars without having roads to travel on. All over the USA other states have answered this question in pretty much the same way, leased access.

Now when I say lease I do not mean a “game preserve”… high fenced…. or canned hunt area. What I mean is a piece of ground leased from a large holder like a paper company. A vast area you will seed and maintain to attract and hold free-ranging deer or game. All hunting is traditional fair chase. Food plots will encourage great health. Clover and biomass will make them strong all summer. Alfalfa will give them wintering food, as will the standing corn, and all to nourish them and see them through to spring.

Sound too far-fetched?

Enter…. The Maine Hunting Club

 

I have had the great pleasure to meet and talk to Buck Pierce the owner of MHC. During our long winded 2-½ hour phone interview. We covered all the angles in this, the negative and the positive. But before we go too far. Here’s some background information:

“My name is Buck Pierce, and the reasons I have started this club are very simple. I am an avid bow hunter and I have five children. Living in Maine, I have acquired a love of the outdoors, and hunting has become my passion. I have encouraged my children to do the same. In talking with local hunters I found that areas to hunt are becoming harder to find, and the deer population in Maine is diminishing. Through the use of proper maintenance of property, installing food plots, and management I have found others to have great success in raising their deer herd numbers and quality.

I would like to point out that I am not a hunting guide service. The intention of my club is to lease land in Maine (VT. and NH. next year) with the intention of having not only a controlled hunting environment, but also an atmosphere in which the deer population can once again thrive. It is my plan to install food plots on all club properties that will sustain the deer, turkey and moose population through the winter. Upon researching the properties to be leased, I have found ample water supply, as well as wooded and open areas. Streams run all through the property with tons of benches, ridges and draws. All property is easily accessible, and only club members will be allowed to hunt the property. Through the use of quality deer management and respectful hunters, I believe we can all contribute to the great hunting heritage that Maine holds so dear.”

On The Youth:

 “We as a club are very interested in the youth hunters as they are the future of the hunting heritage.”

“There will be three sections allotted for hunting. The first section will be for bow hunting. The second section will be for youth hunters, and those with physical disabilities. The third will be open to all. The split ratio will be 15-25-60.”

QDM:

“It is my intention to have at least 5% of all leased land planted with food plots over the next several years. The food will consist of bio mass, winter greens, soybean, turnip, beets, clover etc… These food sources average 28-35 percent protein (rather than the 7 percent natural forest produces) which will attract and encourage the deer to stay in the area, increase growth, and capability to harvest bigger, higher quality deer. At this time, I have 10,000 acres of land at club disposal, with 12,000+ more acres coming over the next few years.”

Now all of that came off his site: http://mainehuntingclub.com/index.html

You really need to visit the site and read the information he has posted there. Then when you can honestly say that you need more information…call him. Buck is a real person, a caring and passionate advocate for youth and our hunting heritage. His goal is to take that MHC land and make it a stellar example of QDM. From what should happen this year to what he wants to see 5 years from now. Make no mistake MHC is a business. But that level of professionalism and commitment is how things get done. Buck pulls no punch about where his focus remains. The youth are the future of hunting. Recruitment in states that lease is higher than in states that don’t. How can you get new hunters when they have no place to hunt?

Additional information:

Maine Hunting Club Rules

1)       Scouting and stand placement will be allowed from Dec 15- Sept 21. After Sept 15 only scouting to be done by trail cam or run timer.

2)       All club members must sign into desired area for each day they are going to be hunting. This rule is of most importance due to safety issues (If you are missing/hurt we can find you).

3)       All club members are to wear safety harnesses with fall catch anytime you are in a tree.  ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTIONS

4)      Carry club badges while on club property. All vehicles shall have parking pass inside of vehicle on mirror.

5)       No screw in steps/stands in trees.

6)      No driving of ATV’s in food plots or in a manner in which you dig up the ground. Roads are for vehicles so we need to be considerate.

7)      Trash is to be taken upon departure from property. We will not tolerate having to clean up after other club members.

8)      No shooting of young deer. Deer must be 3.5 years or older. (Exception of youth 15 and under in youth area.)

9)      All game must be logged into club books for record keeping. Pictures would be a bonus.

10)   All personal stands are to be out of the woods no later than 12/15

11)   No Parking in thru ways where other vehicles travel.

12)   There are no deer drives/pushes on any club properties.

13)   No hunting within 150 yards of club food plots. These areas will be open for hunting the last weekend of rifle and late bow season.

Lets take a look at this for a moment:

1.Seem reasonable that all scouting should cease once season begins. You scouting where I hunt will spook my deer.

2. Safety issue…..no lost hunters

3. Safety Issue…. Fall restraint device

4. Carry ID…seems obvious

5. Safety issue….no tree damage and no chainsaw accidents from forgotten steps.

6. Common sense

7. Common sense

8. QDM……allow deer to reach maturity to increase breeder bucks and better herd genetics.

9. Log book…club QDM data

10. Common sense

11. Courtesy?

12. Safety issue………too many accidents

13. Deer must feed………huntable at end only because food plots would be small and scattered.

Now for the numbers:

DUES:

1)       2010 HUNTING SEASON- $650.00
a. YOUTH DUES 150.00 (15 AND UNDER WITH PARENT MEMBERSHIP)
b. YOUTH 16 AND 17 325.00 WITH PARENT MEMBERSHIP

2)        YEAR TWO DUES
a. NEW MEMBERS; $775.00 PLUS TWO DAYS LABOR
$1075.00 WITHOUT LABOR
b. ALL 1ST YEAR MEMBERS $675.00 PLUS TWO DAYS LABOR
$975.00 WITHOUT LABOR

c. YOUTH DUES 150.00 (15 AND UNDER WITH PARENT MEMBERSHIP)
d. YOUTH 16 AND 17 325.00 WITH PARENT MEMBERSHIP

3)      YEAR THREE DUES
a. NEW MEMBERS; $1000.00 PLUS TWO DAYS LABOR
$1300.00 WITHOUT LABOR
b.1ST YEAR MEMBERS FROM THIS POINT ON RUN 30% UNDER INCOMING NEW MEMBERS
c.2ND YEAR MEMBERS WILL RUN AT 15% UNDER INCOMING NEW MEMBERS

d. YOUTH DUES 150.00 (15 AND UNDER WITH PARENT MEMBERSHIP)
e. YOUTH 16 AND 17 325.00 WITH PARENT MEMBERSHIP

Now if you are planning on only using your access for deer hunting once a year and only for a few days to a week. Not worth it!

 But your access is 365/24/7. You can camp on site…fish the ponds…. hunt ducks/grouse/bunnies/coyotes (in season) and tag your lottery moose here. Do some squirrel hunting and trap your butt off.

Most of all you can get away and go to camp!! Granted there are no cabins…you’ll have to tent, or bring your RV.

(There are camps for rent on nearby lakes but that has nothing to do with the club.)

I can honestly say that this idea appeals to me. I get to hunt a large well-managed deer area. I can hunt it through all the seasons and use it all through the year as my personal get away.  The only thing is I have to pay to play.

That’s $650.00 divided by 365 = about 1.80 per day!!!

Or

650.00 div. By 12 = 53.40 per month!!!!

Where can you go and what can you do that costs less than 2.00 a day to get in?

I hope I have added new information and perspective to the debate. I also hope you will check out MHC…and talk to Buck. Get a tour of the club holdings, and see that it is time to add QDM to Maine’s future. Maybe Clubs are not the future of hunting but all of the real deer experts will tell you that QDM is!! But before Augusta will make a move someone has to show them that QDM is our only hope.

If you have a question or comment…..post it here or email me at: [email protected]