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Proposed changes to Maine deer permits being considered

Wildlife officials propose replacing the traditional any-deer permit with an antlerless permit.

MAINE, USA — It’s early turkey season here in Maine, but bagging the biggest bird isn’t the only thing on hunters' minds right now. Some are keeping an eye on potential changes coming to deer hunting season.

There are nine proposed changes to Maine’s deer hunting laws and rules. Each has to go through a different approval process, and some are already official. 

L.D. 116, which Gov. Janet Mills signed, contains five of the proposed changes:

  • Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife given authority to designate a Wildlife Management District (WMD) as open to either-sex hunting on a regular license

  • Elimination of permit swaps and transfers

  • Change in super pack permit threshold

  • $12 fee ($2 agent fee) for antlerless deer permits

  • Ability to distribute permits left over after the lottery by selling them through the website

There’s an ongoing rulemaking proposal, which involves the other four changes that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s advisory council and commissioner are considering:

  • Change from any-deer permits to antlerless deer permits.

  • Change in the number of districts a permit applicant may select from three down to two

  • Commissioner would designate which WMDs allow youth day hunters to take an antlerless deer without a permit instead of that being tied to whether or not permits were issued in a WMD

  • Commissioner would designate which WMDs allow regular archery and crossbow hunters to take an antlerless deer without a permit instead of that being tied to whether or not permits were issued in a WMD

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“It provides more opportunity for hunters,” Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Communications Director Mark Latti said about the proposal to switch from any-deer permits to antlerless deer permits. “It lets us control the deer herd a little bit better and a little more actively.”

A hunter with an any-deer permit can harvest either a buck or a doe. Under the new proposal, an antlerless permit would allow hunters to take a buck with their regular hunting license and an additional antlerless deer.

“Over the last several decades, we’ve been struggling to achieve desired levels of doe harvest in Maine, and a lot of that is because permits that we issue through the lottery are an either-sex permit where a hunter has to choose, ‘Am I taking a buck or am I taking a doe?’ said Maine deer biologist Nathan Bieber. “A lot of hunters are just going to wait and see if they can take a buck instead. By switching to a permit, that allows them to keep buck hunting but also take that doe. We think hunters will be a lot more likely to use those permits to take does.” 

Latti told NEWS CENTER Maine the proposed change is likely to be accepted and could be approved next week. 

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Already signed into law is a $12 fee and $2 agent fee for the antlerless deer permit. Bieber said the revenue from the permit fees would go toward conservation efforts. 

“A lot of people are going to be resistant, I think, to a fee at first,” Bieber added. “Since it’s going towards purchasing deer wintering habitat, managing that habitat for wintering deer, and also, those areas will be managed as wildlife management areas and recreation ... We’re hoping by putting the fees to good use people can see how that money is used will make that a much easier choice to pay that fee."

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