SAM's Deer Managment Network Kickoff!

Gerry Lavigne

Gerry Lavigne explains the many aspects of the Deer Management Network. His yeoman like work on this initiative is greatly appreciated by SAM members.

Chandler Woodcock

IFW Commissioner, Chandler Woodcock, was the final speaker of the event. On several occasions he had the audience laughing out loud, but on a more serious note he talked about the many things that the Dept. is doing to help the deer herd.

Local s6

Joel Pitcher, Chairman of the Local 6 Human Rights Committee and Don Bilodeau, Trustee, Local 6, address the attendees at the Deer Management Fundraiser. SAM is excited about the new partnership with the brotherhood of Machinists and Aerospace workers. The 3800 member organization is partnering with SAM on several youth and disabled vet outdoor initiatives. The two addressed the audience and talked about the many things that their members and sportsmen have in common.

Chow Line

SAM Board members: Gerry Lavigne(blue shirt) and Bob Engelhardt, serve wild game of all sorts to hungry sportsmen and women at the first Annual Deer Management Network Fundraiser. The menu included: moose and deer meat pies, smoked meat compliments of Dunlatr Farm (Gerry Lavigne). Fish chowders, several wild game chilies were especially tasty, compliments of several fish and game clubs sponsors. A good time was had by all and no one left hungry.


by: Gerry Lavigne

Gerry Lavigne

It’s no secret that the white-tailed deer population is in tough shape in Maine. Severe winters, wintering habitat loss and excessive predation have taken their toll over the years. Waning deer populations have diminished hunting and wildlife watching opportunity, and Maine’s rural economy has taken a severe hit as a result. It is widely agreed that white-tailed deer populations need to be recovered. The question is how do we go about it?

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is in the early stages of implementing a plan to increase deer populations, focusing heavily on the northern half of the state (see "Maine’s Game Plan for Deer" on the Dept.’s website: MDIFW’s deer plan anticipates extensive collaboration with its outdoor partners. And they are right to reach out for help in restoring the deer herd.

With a Warden Service second to none, and a well-trained and dedicated biological staff, the Dept. is well-positioned to implement many of the remedies needed to restore Maine’s deer herd. Yet, the Dept. cannot do this alone.

With 94% of the state in private ownership, and a land area nearly equal to the rest of New England, the logistics of improving habitat, reducing predation losses, and enforcing the game laws would be impossible without a lot of help from Maine hunters and landowners.

We sense a great willingness among Mainers to do something for our deer resource. Hunters are beginning to realize they need to be stewards of the deer resource and not just consumers of it. And landowners, large and small, are awakening to the reality that what they do with their land can have a profound impact on wildlife populations, including deer. Although willing to help, many hunters and landowners lack the knowledge, or skills, or even the encouragement to get involved in deer restoration and management efforts. What is needed is some way for all of MDIFW’s outdoor partners to network to exchange ideas, increase management skills, and monitor progress in restoring Maine deer.

SAM is stepping up to fulfill that need by creating the MAINE DEER MANAGEMENT NETWORK. Our network will be information-based, and we will host a major section of SAM’s website. We will provide links to our outdoor partners, so that users can readily access information available on their websites. As funding becomes available, we will host meetings, conferences, and training seminars dealing with habitat management, trapping and predator hunting, and a variety of other topics related to deer restoration and management.

We will produce DVDs and other educational materials. And we will provide a place where hunters and landowners can share tips, tactics and ideas that may help others succeed at protecting and managing deer.


SAM will also support the Maine Deer Management Network at the Legislature and in other political venues. We will also provide outreach by attending meetings at Fish and Game clubs, Wildlife Conservation associations, Landowner associations and others, when possible, to provide input to their deer management efforts. SAM will also provide information in the print media by providing feature articles on deer management and outdoor recreation topics for the daily newspapers, and sporting magazines in Maine. Finally, we will coordinate closely with MDIFW to assure mutual progress in restoring and then maintaining healthy deer populations again.

As presently envisioned, the Maine Deer Management Network will focus on three major topics: Habitat Management, Predation Management, and Hunting. Successful restoration of Maine’s deer herd depends on how well we manage deer productivity and losses.

Habitat management involves both summer and winter range. The amount and quality of wintering habitat greatly affects deer survival. Both malnutrition and predation losses are minimized in high quality wintering habitat. Maine has lost a great deal of its deer wintering areas over the past 40 years, particularly in the northern half of the state. MDIFW has made deer yard protection and enhancement a priority. We at SAM agree, and we want to help the Dept. succeed by helping them network with large and small landowners who own deer wintering areas.

The quality of summer range affects deer nutrition, productivity, and pre-winter condition. Many individual landowners are interested in improving their acreage for deer. Too often, they lack the information needed to get started. There are several landowner organizations and land trusts already involved in providing information to landowners. We hope to partner with groups like the Small Woodlot Owners of Maine (SWOAM), the Maine Farm Bureau, the Maine Tree Farmers Association, the Quality Deer Management Association, the Downeast Lakes Land Trust and others to share information and to increase awareness of these organizations and what they have to offer.


Predation management is essential to restoring deer populations in the northern, western and eastern parts of Maine. Deer inhabiting poor quality wintering habitat are highly susceptible to predation by coyotes and to a lesser degree, bobcats. Even in good habitat, losses to predators occur in excess of malnutrition losses during severe winters. Low deer populations can be held at low densities by abundant predator populations. Adult deer are not the only targets of predators. Predation on newborn deer fawns can, and in many places is excessive as coyotes, bears, bobcats, fishers, foxes, and domestic dogs all exploit this food source during June and July. Excessive predation on neonate deer can prevent populations from increasing, even when adult deer losses are held to a minimum.

While no one is advocating elimination of mammalian predators of deer in Maine, many of us have come to realize that predator populations should be held at levels that allow depleted deer herds to rebound. This is no small task, considering the abundance of coyotes and black bears in Maine. MDIFW has recently revamped its animal damage control program to better manage predation effects on deer by reducing coyote densities near major deer wintering areas prior to the onset of severe wintering conditions. This is a good approach and we are eager to support Dept. efforts to reduce predation losses near deer wintering areas. But the Dept. cannot afford to target all wintering areas, given its current funding and personnel resources. This is where individual hunters can really have an impact!

We believe that one path toward annually reducing coyote densities is to develop coyote hunting into the next big hunting activity in Maine. Specifically, we’d like to transition the coyote from varmint status, to the valuable, huntable furbearer resource that it can be. As with trapping of coyotes, hunting these large, wary canids is challenging and exciting. If just a few thousand of Maine’s 150,000 deer hunters also become coyote hunters, we may just have the right pressure to annually reduce the negative impacts of these predators on deer. To that end, a goodly portion of the Maine Deer Management Network will be devoted to promoting coyote hunting. We will dovetail with the Dept.’s. coyote management efforts. We envision a volunteer "Adopt a Deer Yard" program targeting coyote hunting near deer wintering areas by individual hunters, or clubs. We will link with organizations involved with coyote hunting. We intend to be a resource that individuals can turn to for information on coyote biology, hunting tactics, available equipment, bait sources, etc. We can be a source of input and news on coyote hunting, club activities, hunting contests and the like. Generally we want to establish that sound predator management is an important component of successful deer management in Maine.

The third major element of the Maine Deer Management Network is the human side of the equation, both hunting and non-hunting. No hunter lives and hunts in a vacuum. Most of us hunt on someone else’s land, and the continuation of that privilege depends on how landowners and non-hunters perceive our activities. As part of this network, we will find opportunities to strengthen the connection between hunters and the non-hunting public. We will inform all Maine people about the impacts of hunting and outdoor recreation on Maine’s economy. We intend to be a resource where hunters can find information on the latest hunting regulations, including legislative changes as they occur. We will stress the importance of ethical hunting behavior, encourage active participation in game law compliance, and help define the importance of hunting and trapping as a means of keeping wildlife populations at compatible levels.

As a concept, the Maine Deer Management Network has been percolating within SAM for quite a while, but it is still a work in progress. Over the next couple of months, SAM will be putting this network online. Let us know what you think of the Maine Deer Management Network, and contact us with your ideas at any time.

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