Daily Archives: December 8, 2009

Decline of deer and deer hunting in Maine

Deer hunting, especially in the North Woods, is a pretty big part of life for Mainers. It is a rite of passage for boys and girls whose fathers – and sometimes mothers – drag them to their first hunters’ breakfast , pile them into all sort of vehicle, drive them into the wilderness, and help them slog through the woods to just the “perfect” site for bagging that first deer.

I know, I know, Bambi was a deer and killing deer is bad, bad, bad. At least, in the minds of many people.

But in many parts of the country, including Maine, hunting is more than just sport. Deer and other game are hunted for meat; some families, especially in this economic climate, are looking for meat from game to help them get through the winter. In most cases, it is not a life-and-death situation, but it is pretty serious.

And the deer population – and the subsequent decline in deer kills – is way down.

The effects go well beyond those to the individual hunter. I came across a blog entry on DownEast.com about the decline of the deer population and the far-reaching effects on the local and state economy. It is a pretty devastating situation.

Stores and restaurants, outfitters, sporting goods stores, hotels and motels, and hunting lodges, some of them in the same family for several generations, are hurting financially this year in part because there are fewer deer and fewer deer hunters.

My mother, who occasionally works at the small general store in my hometown of Portage, Maine, where deer kills are registered, said the take this year has been incredibly disappointing. She echoed some of the comments by the blog’s author, George Smith, who is described as “a columnist, TV show host, executive director of the state’s largest sportsmen’s organization, political and public policy consultant, hunter, angler, and avid birder and most proud of his three children and grandson.”

Smith wrote that deer population has been reduced by two back-to-back rough winters, poor habitat, and thinning by bears and coyotes. That – and I would dare say the sluggish economy – have caused longtime hunters to cancel or shorten their trips to the North Woods. Others have cut short their trips after spending days in the woods and not spotting deer or deer sign.

The blog outlines the economic hardship being caused to businesses and the financial loss to the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in license fees.

As Smith says, the only real fix in the southern part of the state is to have a milder-than-recent winter. Mother Nature controls that.

But he also quotes a former game commissioner warning that deer hunting in the North Woods may never return. That would be a terrible loss to poor Mainers looking to stretch their grocery dollars by putting game on the table. And it would be even more so for the future generations of would-be hunters who will never be dragged to their first hunters’ breakfast, loaded into a rig, and taken to remote spots in the North Woods seeking to bag their first deer.

Bad toe juju visiting me again

Back when I was an opinion page editor for The Reporter, the daily newspaper in Vacaville, CA, I wrote a weekly column. For those of you who are too young to have picked up a newspaper ever before, a column is sort of a printed blog from a time before online blogs. (No, really! There was something before blogs.)

In the column I wrote about things that happened to me and around me. And that includes writing about the time two friends, a married couple, each had a broken toe at the same time and my officemate was in a car crash. At the time I was cautiously pleased that such things happened in threes so that I was free from painful toe injury and full-body bruising. [The column is at the bottom of this blog entry.]

Also, I have been accused in the past of mercilessly teasing a former co-worker who has suffered several broken toes at various times, but each time involving European plumbing. Yep, European plumbing.

So, I suppose it is only right – given that I made public the embarrassing circumstances of the various injuries – that I also would suffer toe injuries.

Sometime last spring or summer, I was walking from a parking lot to a retail store and did not notice the angle of the ramp in the sidewalk. I slammed my right big toe smack-dab into the side of the curb, bending back about a third of the nail.

Oh, it hurt like a dickens and there was plenty of blood. I was able to hobble around a bit, but for the next few weeks I stubbed the toe every time I turned around, it seemed. It was painful and a rather frequent basis.

OK, fine, I figured that would have realigned my toe karma. No more bad toe juju for Keith.

Well, not so fast, buckaroo.

Last night as I was jumping into bed, there was a freak accident. Somehow, as I was swinging my legs under the covers, my left big toe slammed into my right heel. That left me with a broken left big toenail and a sliced right heel.

A few curses later, my nail was clipped and it and my heel were bandaged.

Moral: Never, ever tempted toe juju! You never know when it will come back to be a pain in your, well, toe.

‘Very leery of horses and mops’

By Keith Michaud

Something is just not right in the world around me and I’m keeping my head down. I don’t need any broken bones or full-body bruising.

I’m not some wimpy namby-pamby, mind you. I’ve taken my lumps, figuratively and literally, and the aches and pains of some physical exertion is a good thing. It reminds you why there are lounge chairs.

But lately something has been thrown out of alignment. Stars are not lined up properly. Or solar flares are burning a hole in the Earth’s ozone layer … or something.

It all began when my friend, Michele – the saintly, understanding woman married to my beer-drinkin’-wine-makin’-trout-fishin’-cattle-raisin’-golf-playin’ buddy, Rick – decided to tend to her beautiful horse one day not long ago.

As she was retrieving something from her car, the horse followed. Michele turned and was startled, which startled the horse and caused the horse to step on Michele’s foot, breaking a toe and causing some colorful bruising.

She hobbled around for a few days because of that. I think she might still be limping.

Then, if I recall the timeline correctly, a few days later my officemate, Lynn – who I am guessing will one day reach over the desk we share and simply clock me one and I will have had it coming – was in a car crash.

Oh, she’s OK, now. She wasn’t hurt too badly when another vehicle pulled out in front of her car and they crashed. But the airbag went off and the force caused some nasty bruising up and down her right arm, across her chin and chest, and down her left arm.

And then there was the terrible “mopping accident.” My beer-drinkin’-wine-makin’-trout-fishin’-cattle-raisin’-golf-playin’ buddy, Rick, was mopping his floor when he felt something on the bottom of his foot. Thinking it was a small rock, he shook his foot to get it off, which it did not since, he later learned, it was some sticky asphalt that had been tracked into the house.

He shook his foot as hard as he could to dislodge the object, but in the process kicked the corner of the base to the kitchen counters, breaking his toe.

“I went down like a tranquilized caribou,” Rick recounted. “In slow motion.”

Yes, that’s correct, Rick and Michele now have matching broken toes. For both of them, it is the piggy that went wee-wee-wee all the way home.

I’m really hoping these sorts of freak occurrences to people around me only come in threes. They have to, right? So, I’m probably safe, don’t you think? At least, for now?

But don’t be surprised if I’m somewhere and I dive for cover if a car backfires.

Or if there is a horse or a mop nearby.

The author was the opinion page editor of The Reporter in Vacaville, CA, when this was published on July 27, 2005.