Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on July 19, 2011


July 2011

Editor’s note: One
week each month we will run the, Ask The Deer Tracker post. Anyone wishing to
send a question for future posts can e-mail it to,

Q. – My father and I have recently begun hunting and
tracking the elusive big buck in Maine’s north woods. Our initial assumption
was that there would be less hunting pressure for the amount of land available,
but it isn’t what we had anticipated. After a couple of seasons we have
concluded that due to the number of logging roads, most of the land is easily
accessible. How do you go about entangling yourself from other hunters and
finding mature bucks that haven’t been pressured and/or ever seen a human
 R.P. – Augusta, ME


A. – First of
all, although there are indeed many logging roads honeycombing the working
forest, that doesn’t necessarily mean that hunters are penetrating the woods.
Where there is a road, certainly someone is going to drive it, but I have found
few if any that will get out and penetrate the bush. After hunting the big
woods for over a quarter century, I have found little-to-no real human pressure
being placed onto the resident deer, nor can it be. There is simply way too
much land and too few hunters to imbue any kind of pressure. As to finding a
buck that has never laid eyes on a human, the notion is highly improbable.
Whitetails gravitate to choice feed, which generally is provided at the hand of
those using chain saws, skidders and logging machinery. Those noises associated
with felling trees becomes the whitetail’s dinner bell and believe me, they
recognize it and come to dine. I do not let the spoor of other humans deter me
from hunting a particular area that may look promising to me. It has been my
experience when encountering those that do indeed enter the woods that they
will rarely go any further than 1/4 mile from their parked car.

Q. – I am a deer hunter from Ohio and have
read most of your work, which has appeared in both national and regional
publications, including all of your books. During parts of the past two Maine
deer seasons I have spent four weeks hunting in the northern part of the state.
In that time I have seen only five deer, but have enjoyed every minute of my
time spent. In fact, I can’t imagine a better place to hunt; I’m hooked. Do you
feel the hunting is as good as it was 10-to-20 years ago, and has it declined
from what was considered, ‘the good ole days?’   J.S. – Forest, Ohio               


A. – Regarding
my opinion as to the state of the deer herd in northern Maine as it relates to,
10 -20 years ago – it is not the same. Overall deer numbers have declined
significantly, this due to two major contributors, harsh winters and the
reduction of sufficient winter deer cover. The climate in northern Maine is
severe enough under the best of conditions, and when you systematically reduce
the canopy of conifers, through logging, where these animals have traditionally
wintered (deer yards) it cannot help but reduce the deer population.

I believe the herd is indeed at a low ebb, in
spite of following a dismal harvest in 2010 and a relatively normal winter.

As far as ‘the good ole days’ I’m assuming
that you are referring to a time when deer where quite plentiful (late 1950’s –
the early 1980’s, when the clear cutting began), those days have sadly
disappeared, at least for now. It has always been a challenge to hunt the
northern range of the whitetail, but no more so than the present day. However,
the reward for the effort, in my opinion far outweighs the difficulties
involved in taking one of these ‘seasoned old strategists.’

Q. – I have grown up with the belief that shooting
does is a bad idea, is that sound thinking, grandpa’s preference or poor
management?    T. D. – Williston, VT


A. – Perhaps in grandpa’s time that was indeed sound
management practice as deer herds were being rebuilt, however, in most places
where whitetails live today that is not the case. In fact, it is quite the
opposite with burgeoning deer populations being the norm rather than the
exception. By adhering to a management plan designed to rebuild a herd and only
shooting bucks explains why doe herds have spiraled out of control.

Here are some of the major benefits of harvesting does. The
habitat is preserved if the deer population is kept at or slightly below the
range’s carrying capacity. Shooting does will put less pressure on bucks and
provides for a better buck – to – doe ratio. The number of mature bucks will
increase with a better age structure within the overall herd. The number of
rubs and scrapes will multiply. With an increase in mature bucks, the rut will
be more intense with fighting and chasing occurring much more frequently. When
the adult doe – to – antlered buck ratio is 3 – to – 1 or less, the rut will
last about 40 days. With a more condensed rut, most fawns will be born on
schedule providing them the opportunity to properly develop and gain enough
weight to survive the coming winter.

Each management situation is a bit different, but in most
instances hunters are not killing enough does to keep the herd in check or
maintain proper age structure amongst the male population. It must be
remembered that it is a whole lot quicker to add deer to a herd than it is to
restore the habitat that has been decimated from more mouths to feed than the
land can support.

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