The state of Maine has closed its 2021 deer hunting season with its highest reported harvest since Lyndon B. Johnson was the President of the United States. As of December 14, hunters had harvested 38,916 whitetail deer in 2021, and some additional reports are still coming in, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) Big Game Harvest Dashboard. That total easily tops 2020’s tally of 33,157 deer and is the highest reported whitetail harvest since hunters took 41,080 deer in 1968.

MDIFW biologist Nathan Bieber told the Bangor Daily News that there are a number of factors that contributed to this year’s harvest, including a rising number of hunting licenses sold. “In order to harvest a lot of deer, there must exist a lot of deer to be harvested. Similarly, there must be a lot of hunters on the landscape to do the harvesting,” he says. “The amount of available opportunity certainly factors in as well. With a lot of permits available to harvest does, especially bonus permits allowing hunters to take an antlerless deer and then continue to buck hunt, we’re hoping to see significantly more antlerless harvest.”

This year, Maine hunters had access to a record 153,910 any-deer permits, which the state released in an effort to better control the whitetail population. The full breakdown of the deer harvest by sex has not yet been released. Regardless, this year’s harvest will go down as at least 8th highest since the state began recording harvest statistics in 1919. The most deer killed in one year in Maine’s recorded history was in 1959 when 41,735 deer were taken. 

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This Year’s High Harvest May Help Mitigate the Spread of Lyme Disease

Maine’s deer herd is estimated to be around 300,000 animals. Scientists say that the greater the deer population, the greater the presence of tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, according to Maine Public Radio. According to the CDC, Maine ranks fourth highest in the nation for Lyme disease with 1,629 confirmed cases in 2019. Researchers from the Maine Medical Center Research Institute say that controlling the state’s deer population has the potential to help mitigate the spread of Lyme disease. If that’s the case, the year’s harvest should help the cause.