River Valley Outdoors
Biologist from Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife keep records of the number of deer registered each year, and the number of whitetails tagged in our state has dramatically dropped over the past decade. Some folks believe that since the coyote snaring program ended in 2003, the deer population has taken a turn for the worse.
The coyote snaring program allowed biologists to hire trappers to take problem predators out of winter deer yards – protective, mature growth forests that harbor wintering deer.
Coyotes shouldn’t take all the blame, but they sure do play a big part in this loss. An increased
black bear and bobcat population takes a toll on the deer numbers, and extreme snow depths contribute to a diminished herd. Loss of winter yarding areas also plays a huge part in why our whitetail population keeps decreasing every year.
So how can whitetail hunters help in solving this problem? The weather sure can’t be controlled, so that inconsistent variable will just have to remain problematic.
Traditional deer yarding areas certainly should be protected, if they haven’t already been cut.
Our legislators make new laws every year; maybe they could get creative and come up with some way of stopping the cutting practices in these valuable sections of woods – while at the same time allowing land owners to utilize the wooded, renewable resource on the rest of their land.
The one controllable variable in this whole scenario happens to be the predators that feed on whitetails. Hunting bear and bobcat certainly helps out, but these two animals don’t take anywhere near the large numbers of deer that coyotes kill.
Hungry packs of coyotes feed on whitetails year round, but most of the deer fall to the wily
predator during the winter when deep snow hinders the deer. Young whitetails, born in the early spring,
also become easy meals for coyotes.
So how can whitetail hunters in the River Valley help improve deer numbers?
I consider myself like most other hunters—I like to walk around in the woods during the fall
and early winter with a rifle and hunt deer. If I don’t shoot a whitetail, it doesn’t bother me – as a matter of fact, I think I like the fresh air and healthy walking as much as I do shooting deer.
Last year, when the deer hunting season ended, I decided to try something new. I continued to
prowl the wood with a shotgun in hand, looking for deer sign, and at the same time kept an eye peeled for flushing grouse. This way I extended my pleasurable time in the woods, scouted for new deer hunting locations, and bagged a few grouse.
This year I’ll include coyote hunting to the post-season mix. I’ll continued to prowl the woods
for new deer hunting territory, but this time I’ll also keep a predator call handy. If I cut a coyote track
during the stroll, I’ll hit the “howl” button on the electronic call and wait for Mr. Coyote to show up.
Whitetail hunters can take advantage of this “extended” opportunity to hike the deer woods
365 days a year – coyotes can be hunted all year long. I can’t think of a better way for a whitetail hunter to sharpen his or her hunting skills – and at the same time help keep the coyote population in check.