'A Hard Place to Grow Deer'
He also has a clear view of a larger picture, one unclouded by mythology and emotion. “Hunters remember the good old days,” he says. “Post-World War II, post-wolf, pre-modern forestry, pre-road density, pre-snowshoe hare and coyote. The reality is that deer are responding to large landscape-level changes to the northern forest over several decades.”
The trajectory, he points out, has been downward since the spruce budworm epidemic more than 30 years ago; it devastated a huge part of the working forest and led to a massive salvage operation, which destroyed a lot of forest. Partly in response, environmentalists helped push for a law that limited the clear-cutting that timber companies could do. To continue meeting their volume needs, the industry then built more roads, accessing additional areas.
“Good winter habitat has been severely reduced,” Kantar says, “and meanwhile, winter does what winter does. Everyone wants us to do something, but we’re limited by biological and ecological reality. And the reality is: Maine is an awfully hard place to grow deer.”