November in the Downeast Lakes Community Forest (DLCF) can mean only one thing: It’s deer hunting season. Since its inception, Downeast Lakes Land Trust (DLLT) has focused on land management practices that improve deer habitat. Perhaps one of the most culturally significant species in the Downeast Lakes region, white-tailed deer population declines in the last several decades have gained a lot of attention from state biologists, policy makers, and the general public. While there is much debate about the exact causes of these declines, DLLT is taking great strides to improve the food and shelter resources of the community forest.
DLLT has created several Deer Management Areas (DMA) within the DLCF, totaling 19,749 acres that have specific goals and objectives associated with them. Under the model of Focus Species Forestry, these areas are planned around riparian habitat that will provide closed-canopy coniferous cover, simultaneously benefiting other species such as American marten, Pileated Woodpecker, and brook trout. In addition to enhancing deer wintering areas, it is equally important to provide a perpetual supply of food in adjacent woodlands. Hard mast, herbaceous plants, and woody browse all provide food for deer at different times of the year. By creating a sustainable food supply and improving winter yards, DLLT hopes to provide the local deer herd with the tools needed for surviving an often harsh Downeast winter.
Using local knowledge and insight from biologists, foresters, and Registered Maine Guides, DLLT’s volunteer Forest Resources and Wildlife Habitat Committees have focused these DMA’s around naturally existing resources. Identifying where the proper food, water, and shelter occur on 55,000 acres is a difficult task, but one that is very important to the long-term planning process. With the recent creation of the 7,100-acre Amazon-Musquash Reserve and Special Management Area, DLLT has set aside an additional 600 acres of primary and secondary deer habitat. This area, although located in an ecological reserve, allows DLLT to further improve additional deer habitat on a low-impact basis.
In addition to improving ecological health, the DMA’s will have a lasting impact on the future of the local economy. A stronger deer population means more opportunities for seasonal tourism, guiding, and lodging in the Downeast Lakes region. The longstanding tradition of deer hunting creates lasting memories for local families. Conserving habitat allows young hunters to experience the thrill of heading out into the community forest on a frosty Downeast morning in search of their first buck – a rite of passage in Maine.
Downeast Lakes Land Trust allows all legal forms of hunting in the Downeast Lakes Community Forest. Don’t forget to wear your blaze orange this month and good luck! For more information on hunting opportunities, be sure to check out the “Visitor’s Guide” at www.downeastlakes.org.