The 2017 special deer hunt planned in the City of Eastport includes a number of changes from last year's hunt, all to help facilitate the efficient culling of the city's burgeoning deer population. At a special meeting and public hearing held on July 24, the Eastport City Council approved the application submitted to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife by the city's deer committee. Deer committee Chair Chris Bartlett expects that the city will hear back from the department by the end of September.
The most significant change to the special deer hunt is the addition of a refrigerated box truck to be kept at the deer tagging station. The refrigeration unit will allow for additional deer that hunters do not want to keep to be harvested and used for distribution by local food pantries. Bartlett explained at the public hearing that the truck goes hand‑in‑hand with one of the other application changes: While the maximum number of hunters issued deer tags will remain at 30, there will be an additional 60 deer tags. Those hunters who are successful in getting their first deer will be allowed to pick up additional deer tags on a first‑come, first‑served basis. Bartlett notes that deer committee member Walter Cummings had pointed out that most deer hunters have a need for one deer but have no way to store or use another. The inclusion of services provided by the Maine Department of Agriculture Hunters for the Hungry program will help with this issue, so that any more deer taken by a hunter be used as food.
Jason Hall, director of Hunters for the Hungry, is looking forward to the program's presence in the city. He works with 250 food pantries and a handful of soup kitchens around the state. "But we only have 35 processors, so we connect the dots." There are two processors in Washington County, with Clayton Blake's Alexander facility the processor to be used with the Eastport program. "We've been working with Blake's for years," he adds. "I'm excited about this. One, I love Eastport, so it will be good to get out there, and two, Eastport has a fantastic pantry."
Hall has worked with the food pantries in Calais and Princeton, again, connecting the dots between a hunter who wants to donate, getting the animal to the processor and then usually back to the food pantry in the community where the hunter resides. Hunters want to help their own communities first, he notes, but sometimes there are out‑of‑state hunters who suddenly realize that their harvested animal is more than they can handle. Those donations are welcome as well.
If the Eastport special deer hunt is approved, additional changes from the 2016 hunt include an earlier hunt, possibly as early as November 27. Also, the 30 hunters will be comprised of a maximum of 27 residents, with three or 10% being non‑residents. Most of the 2016 special hunt requirements remain the same, such as the city‑specified and tracked blind locations and the post‑hunt assessment. The committee notes in its application, "A total of 11 deer were removed [in 2016] with no significant issues or violations of law/ordinance." It adds that the 2017 hunt application specifications maintain those aspects of the 2016 hunt that were most successful and build on that success with new areas to "maximize the potential for doe deer removal."
Gardening tips offered
Because the deer committee met extensively during the spring, almost every week, it was inevitable that it collected information about methods used by gardeners to keep deer away from the growing bounty. Bartlett notes that retail product names are listed because they are the ones that people have used and discussed. There are many more methods and products available for gardeners to try, with information available from the Cooperative Extension Service and on Internet information sites.
Fencing as a physical barrier of wire or wood has been effective when considering deer jumping habits. Deer can jump eight feet high but require a clear landing area. Lower fences have been effective when the landing area is cluttered or the view is obscured. Double fencing, with four- to five-foot wire spaced three feet apart, has been effective to protect small gardens and sapling trees. Electric fencing has been shown to be effective if the deer receive a shock.
USDA Wildlife Services has an electric fence lease-to-buy program with different options. The fences are psychological, not physical, and baiting the fence to train the wildlife is extremely important. The fence is baited with peanut butter on tinfoil. For more information contact Melanie McVety, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services, at 629-5181 or 592-3816.
Chemical/odor/taste deterrents can be homemade, or retail scent and taste deterrents have shown some effectiveness when applied often, though results have varied. Irish Spring soap can be grated around garden or hung from stakes or plant stems. Bobbex and Havahart Deer Off are retail foliage spray.
Motion-activated sprinklers that are battery or solar powered that attach to a garden hose and spray water when movement is detected are good for protecting smaller gardens, as the range of spray is limited. The Orbit 62100 Yard Enforcer Motion Activated Sprinkler has been used with some success by local gardeners.