Richard McMahon started feeding whitetail deer on his 12 acres in Brownville nine years ago.

But in the past month or so, McMahon’s operation about 45 miles north of Bangor in Piscataquis County – feeding as many as 200 deer a day – has become a bit of a social-media sensation.

“His operation is very large. I don’t know of another like it,” said Maine deer biologist Nate Bieber.

Last year the 71-year-old McMahon created the Facebook page called the “Brownville Deer Food Pantry,” where he posted photos. On Dec. 16, he added a live web cam on Facebook and YouTube, attracting hundreds of viewers.

In the late morning each day, the live cameras show a field empty of deer. By early afternoon, a few dozen deer wander around the snow fields on McMahon’s property in anticipation.

Just before 2 p.m., McMahon drives out onto the field in an ATV with a crate full of grain on the back. Slowly he drives to each of 10 wooden troughs and tips the crate to pour grain through a spout into the feed station. As he does, more and more deer come out onto the field, moving to wooden troughs as he fills them with cattle grain.

One close-up camera on YouTube often shows a deer head in a trough. Sometimes the deer gaze right into the camera. And there always are a few dozen turkeys feeding.

Last year McMahon launched a GoFundMe page to help raise money for deer feed, which he said costs more than $5,000 annually. The page has raised $2,175 and has been shared almost 500 times.

The live feed on Facebook is often shared hundreds of times. Many of the posts praise McMahon, thanking him for the video, some in Spanish, Italian or French.

“I’m having an awful time keeping up with all the comments,” McMahon said.


It is illegal to feed deer in Maine from June 1 to Dec. 15, which coincides with the state’s deer hunts. But from mid-December through May deer feeding is allowed, though it’s not recommended by state biologists.

“We don’t encourage that kind of feeding in general,” Bieber said. “It can disrupt the deer’s movement to traditional wintering areas. If not done correctly, it can end up doing more harm.

“We prefer for deer to live off fat reserves and traditional winter browse.”

Planting food plots is preferred to grain, Bieber said, because a whitetail’s digestive system has a hard time breaking down the food and a new food sources can take several weeks to digest.

“The food sits in the stomach,” Bieber said. “This is why you hear of deer dying with a full stomach.”

In the past several years planting food plots in Maine has become popular. A food plot is an area where clover or some other form of nutritious deer food is grown so it becomes part of the wild landscape.

Many Mainers do both forms of deer feeding.

Raymond’s Country Store in Northeast Carry Township – at the north end of Moosehead Lake – has been feeding deer for 40 years, after Ed Raymond opened the store in 1978.

“The wife and I don’t have kids,” Raymond said. “We live in the woods and we feed the deer.”

Raymond has seen as many as 115 deer in the field. He’s also seen as few as 25. In recent years, he said 75 deer have gathered to feed in his yard.

He uses store-bought “cattle food” with 14 percent protein. Raymond said growing clover doesn’t help because the deer can’t get at it under the snow.

In Rangeley, Marcia Baker of the Rangeley Region Guides and Sportsmen’s Club said deer plots the club grew five years ago have helped.

Baker said because forestry companies are cutting the traditional deer wintering areas – also called deer yards – Maine’s whitetails need help.

“The system has to change. We have lost our deer yards,” Baker said. “The theory is the more they can forage in the fall and the fatter they are, the easier it is for them to survive the winter.”

Seth Raven of Waldo grows clover to help the deer in the midcoast.

He has affixed dozens of wildlife cameras to trees to capture the deer eating, and created the Maine Food Plots and Trail Cam Pictures Facebook page to show his photos. It has 8,400 followers.

“I think the number of deer are about the same,” Raven said. “But they look healthier. Come February and March, they’re digging at the snow. I plant kale, which stays green right under the snow.”

These food plots are different from McMahon’s feed stations in Brownville. But Raven said McMahon is to be commended.

“I think he’s doing a (great) job,” Raven said.

“I’m just adding supplemental food to what the deer browse on here. I’m not making the deer depend on me. I’m adding to what they can get in the woods. I don’t want them to depend on me. He’s actually feeding the deer to help them survive.”

McMahon used to hunt but no longer does. He worries the state’s northern deer herd has suffered from coyote predation and the loss of habitat – the forest cover or natural deer yards that the deer depend on in winter.

“We don’t have the deer we used to have in the ’50s,” said McMahon. “A lot of the neighbors keep a close eye on the deer. If they see a coyote, they shoot it. But there’s not much you can do about them unless you put a bounty on them.

“This is something I started and am committed to continue. I don’t know what would happen if I stopped. I’d have 200 deer standing here.”


Correction: This story was updated at 11:58 a.m., Jan. 29, 2017, to reflect that Raymond’s Country Store is located in Northeast Carry Township.

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