Bow-Hunting Deer Season 2023 - Cape Elizabeth Land Trust


Bow-Hunting Deer Season 2023

In the state of Maine, white-tailed deer populations have fluctuated drastically since population estimates were first recorded in the 1950’s. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) estimated 250,000 deer in Maine in the mid 1950’s, shrinking to 141,000 in the mid 1960’s, and jumping to an all-time high of 331,000 in the 1990’s. They estimate these fluctuations were likely due to coyote colonization or lack of natural predators, severe or mild winters, increased hunting pressure or doe harvest limits, and habitat changes. Most of the expansion in the 1990’s happened in southern Maine, and today, MDIFW estimates 15 to 35 deer per square mile in central and southern Maine. Certain areas with limited or denied hunting access have deer population levels higher than recommended, and these areas also happen to be where most deer/people conflicts take place. MDIFW staff continue to develop innovative strategies for deer population management by incorporating hunting opportunities, viewing opportunities, and alleviating negative impacts from overpopulation. For the entire state of Maine, they recommend improving access to huntable land to keep the population levels in balance (MDIFW Species Spotlight: White-tailed Deer).

CELT allows hunting on two of our properties, Robinson Woods and Runaway Farm, by permission. The 2023 expanded archery deer hunting season ran from September 7 – December 14. Thirty-three bow-hunters requested permission to hunt on CELT land. Each agreed to follow the CELT hunting rules that require staying in the designated hunting areas, at least 100 feet from all trails and 300 feet from residences.

After the end of the season, we reached out to those CELT-registered hunters for feedback on their experience. Eleven hunters completed the survey. Ten shared that they bow-hunted in Cape Elizabeth this year, with only one take of one buck.

General feedback was very positive overall. One respondent stated, “For me, the best part of hunting is the encounters you get with wildlife of all kinds, not just the specific species you are pursuing. For many species, the most active times of days are the hours of dusk and dawn.”

Another wrote, “Thank you for the privilege to hunt on CELT property. Although I would [have] liked to have taken a deer this year and enjoyed the free range meat, nevertheless I cherish my solitude in the woods sitting in my tree stand.”

Deer in Robinson Woods, captured in fall 2022 by a camera set up by Ian Kruger. See here for more footage.
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