It’s the day thousands of Maine’s outdoor enthusiasts have longed for since late last year. It’s the opening day of the whitetail deer hunting season.
Archers and crossbow enthusiasts got their first chance at this year’s crop during the extended archery and regular archery seasons in September and October. And many young people 16 and under participated in Young Deer Day on October 23.
Now the number of hunters in the woods will dramatically increase as deer enthusiasts attempt to harvest an animal and put organic, outdoor, 100% natural meat on the table and in the freezer.
Saturdays are reserved for residents of Maine only, while those outside the state can hunt deer starting Monday, November 1.
For hunters, there is nothing like the excitement of heading out for a long stall session, a slow and leisurely stroll through the woods, or a stint in a well-placed awning on opening day.
The outlook for the 2021 season looks good after another relatively mild winter that has made deer survival easier. This comes from last year’s harvest of 33,157 deer, the highest total in 18 years.
Nathan Bieber, deer biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said while populations in southern and central Maine are stable, things are more changeable in the northern and western regions.
“There should be a lot of deer there. We’re hoping for a better hunting season in northern Maine, ”Bieber said. “For hunters in northern Maine last year, the harvest was down.”
He explained that not only does the population fluctuate more in these areas due to the harsh winter conditions, but hunting conditions marked by warmer temperatures and a lack of snow during the season have also hampered efforts.
“It’s a lot easier when there’s snow on the ground,” Bieber said. “You want to follow, of course, but also if there are enough snow deer, start gathering early for the winter and can start moving to towns where there are actually hunters.”
Opening day can be very productive. There hasn’t been a lot of hunting pressure in most places and savvy hunters have long spotted places where they have seen many deer or their target animal on their surveillance cameras.
Speaking of weather, Saturday seems like a day of varying conditions depending on your location.
Hunters in Aroostook County will be treated to a mostly cloudy day with a high temperature of 50 degrees and light winds. In the Greater Bangor it will be cloudy and 56 while southern Maine expects rain and a high of 53.
More people had more time to hunt last year after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic which, combined with the health of the state’s deer herd, helped facilitate a higher catch.
Another key factor has been the number of permits for all deer issued in 2020. The state has again set a record by offering up to 153,910 “doe tags” this year, which is another warning sign. runner of a good number of deer and a larger harvest.
For all deer hunters, the focus should be on having the experience safe on Saturday or in the weeks to come.
Last year, Maine had two hunting-related shootings in which one person was injured, both self-inflicted.
Hunters must ensure that they know the legal hunting times for each day of the season. Hunting is permitted from half an hour before sunrise in Bangor until half an hour after sunset, regardless of where you are hunting.
So whether you’re in Fort Kent or South Berwick, and no matter what your weather app lists as sunrise and sunset times in those locations, the legal shooting times are still based on Bangor. Click here to see the table that lists the legal hunting hours for 2021-2022.
Keep in mind that in certain conditions and places, despite what the clock says, there may still not be enough light to hunt safely. This includes positive identification of your target audience and what lies beyond.
In case you were wondering, legal filming for Saturday, October 30 begins at 6:41 a.m. and ends at 5:56 p.m.
If you need a little inspiration – or at least a story of a successful deer hunt on opening day – check out this story from 2020.
Good luck, have fun and stay safe there!