The number of deers killed by hunters in Maine this year is the highest in at least 14 years.

Hunters have reported killing 30,299 deer in Maine so far this fall, the most since 2004, when 30,926 were killed. State biologists say the final number likely will surpass the 2004 harvest but probably fall short of the 38,153 killed in 2002, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

With the muzzleloading season remaining – it runs from Monday until Dec. 8 – that harvest number will increase.

State biologists expected a high deer kill this season because of the record number of any-deer permits issued this fall – a total of 85,745, which was an increase of 28 percent from last year.

“With rain the first two Saturdays, the deer harvest was lower than expected,” said Maine deer biologist Nathan Bieber. “However, better hunting conditions including tracking snow throughout the state for the last two weeks of the season compensated for the slow start.”

The state’s new electronic tagging system resulted in deer harvest numbers reported more quickly than ever before. In the past, state deer biologists would not know how many deer were harvested for two to three months. However, this fall for the first time Maine hunters tagged big game using an electronic system at tagging stations, where registration station clerks entered it into a computer.

Previously, registration station vendors had to record hunter-killed deer, moose or bear in registration books that were mailed to the department months later.

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