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Controled Hunts


Well-known member
Sunday, December 15, 2002

Controlled hunt results in higher than expected kill

By Bob Humphrey
Copyright © 2002 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.
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Maine's first BLIP hunt is history. The sun set Saturday evening, marking the end of Maine's first controlled deer hunt involving archers from the Maine Bowhunters Association's Bowhunters and Landowners Information Program — BLIP, for short.

While the final tally was still pending, the hunt was deemed a success by all those involved. It went off without any major incidents and the kill was higher than expected.

This special hunt was held Dec. 2-14 on land in the Drake's Island Game Sanctuary in Wells. The land included portions of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve and private property on Drake's Island. All who participated were permitted to take up to three deer on a permit. They could keep one, and the remaining deer were to be donated to the Hunters for the Hungry program.

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Bowhunters for the Rachel Carson Refuge were chosen from a list of those who already held a regular refuge hunting permit. Hunters on the Wells Reserve and Drake's Island properties where chosen from the state's BLIP list.

BLIP is actually going on 2 years old, but this was the first use of BLIP hunters. In a nutshell, this cooperative effort between MBA and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife consists of training and an Advanced Bowhunter certification. In order to qualify for the BLIP class, applicants must meet certain criteria. They must have already taken a standard, 12-hour bowhunting safety course, have killed a big game animal in Maine with a bow within the last four years and have no prior fish and game violations.

The Advanced Bowhunter class stresses ethics, responsibility and landowner relations. Having completed the BLIP training, bowhunters' names are then placed on a list, which is maintained by the Landowner Relations program coordinator at MDIF&W. The list is also distributed to regional biologists and wardens. In the event someone should contact the department with a deer problem, biologists and wardens are instructed to refer them to the BLIP list. The BLIPsters are also available in the event of a controlled hunt, which was the case in Wells.

This hunt was especially rewarding for me, not only because I was able to participate, but because of my personal involvement. When I took the job as interim manager of the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve back in 1988, one of the first things I noticed was that the area had a deer problem. Being a veteran of controlled hunts at the Crane Reservation in Ipswich, Mass., and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, where I collected data, assisted in developing a hunt plan and actually participated in one hunt, I understood the problem and the most practicable solution.

However, I underestimated the local resistance to such an idea and my efforts to implement data collection, as a precursor to a controlled hunt, were quickly squelched. Eventually, the reserve hired a new manager, who called upon me as an independent consultant to prepare a plan that would lay the groundwork for a controlled hunt. Our efforts were also squelched and though I served on the reserve's management committee for several years, we were never able to muster enough support to follow through.

I had pretty much given up on the issue until I noticed a piece in this newspaper about growing local concern over the deer population and its related problems. It seems local residents had finally had enough of property damage, car-deer collisions and Lyme disease, and were asking the MDIF&W for help in finding a solution. As a BLIP instructor with experience in controlled hunts, I seized the opportunity to introduce BLIP.

Meanwhile, regional wildlife biologist Phil Bozenhard began a series of meetings and public hearings at which he told concerned citizens the pros and cons of all available options and suggested a controlled bowhunt as the most efficient and effective means. Also on hand to provide testimony at one of the meetings were MDIF&W's former Landowner Relations Coordinator Dave Peppard, and the Bowhunters Association's legislative representative, Mike Rovella, who first proposed the BLIP concept to the MBA.

Eventually, logic prevailed. Convinced of the efficacy and safety of such a program, the majority of those present agreed that a controlled bowhunt was the way to go. Even some of the staunchest anti-hunters finally relented, after hearing explanations of how the hunt program would work.

The biggest concern of most locals was the potential for incidents and accidents. As it turned out, the only incidents involved a few locals, still opposed to the hunt, who confronted and in some cases harassed hunters. Having been trained in the art of landowner relations, the hunters kept their cool and addressed every incident with tact and restraint.

Being safe and efficient hunters, they also did what was asked of them.

By week's end, the roughly two-dozen BLIP hunters had experienced an average success rate of more than 100 percent. Meanwhile, while non-BLIP hunters on Rachel Carson Refuge had not taken a deer. This was the first test for BLIP and all indications are that those who participated passed with flying colors.

As deer populations continue to grow out of control in the more developed areas of southern and central Maine, it is likely the MBA's BLIP hunters will be called upon more often in the future. Meanwhile, private landowners who are experiencing deer problems should feel free to contact the department or the MBA about BLIP.

BOB HUMPHREY is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at [email protected].

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