Lillian Preston, 14, of Kittery, shot a buck in York on Saturday during Maine’s Youth Deer Hunting Day. At left is her father, David Preston. The firearm season for Maine residents to hunt deer starts this Saturday, and opens to all hunters on Monday. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

When the firearm season for white-tailed deer opens Saturday for Maine residents, hunters in Wells, Standish and Lebanon will be on high alert, as will those hunting farther north in Vassalboro and Corinna.

Those are among the communities that have recorded the highest deer harvests in the state over the past decade. 

But the No. 1 town for deer kills over the past 10 years? York, by a wide margin.

“It’s rare when you don’t see a deer,” said George Drew, a York resident who has hunted for 50 years. “They are pretty much all over York. If you drove around York for an hour, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll see deer.”

Better known as a summer tourist destination, York was the top deer-harvest town in six of the past 10 years, finishing as the runner-up twice. The findings come from a Portland Press Herald examination of historical harvest data collected by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

York, with a population of fewer than 14,000 people, has an area of 55 square miles. Drew said there is plenty of access to rich hunting grounds at the York Land Trust’s preserves, in parts of the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, and in the Mt. Agamenticus conservation region, a swath of 10,000 acres of protected land that is open to hunting.


“Certainly, the beach is the No. 1 attraction June through the fall season,” said Todd Frederick, chair of the York select board and a hunter for 20 years. “Those deer harvest statistics surprise me. But York is a big town in square miles and there are a lot of big landowners who allow hunting on their land by permission. They are very conservation oriented. They understand the circle of life and that the deer herd needs to be managed.”


Maine has an estimated deer herd of 320,000, according to IFW. However, the densities range widely from one to two deer per square mile in northern Maine to as many as 40 deer per square mile in parts of central and southern Maine.

Indeed, the top 20 communities for deer harvests between 2012-21 were typically found in clusters in those parts of the state. York recorded 2,232 deer harvests over the 10-year span, 12 percent more than the No. 2 town, rural Corinna (1,993) in Penobscot County. Auburn (1,870), St. Albans (1,832) and Wells (1,819) rounded out the top five.

Maine Deer Biologist Nathan Bieber said the state’s new antlerless deer permit – which for the first time allows hunters to kill a buck and a doe, rather than having to choose one or the other – should not have much of an impact on towns that are perennially among the best for deer harvests.

“The middle-of-the-state towns might see an uptick in the deer harvest, but I think the towns that have been on top now will continue to be on top, places where there are a lot of deer and a lot of hunters will have a lot of opportunity, regardless of what the permit system is,” Bieber said.


Last year’s harvest of 38,947 deer was the largest in Maine since 1968. But the antlerless permit was introduced this year in an effort to cull does in the southern half of the state, where the IFW says the herd needs to be thinned.

Out-of-state hunters will join Maine residents on Monday in the annual deer hunt. The regular firearm season runs through Nov. 26.


Last year, Buxton in York County led all towns with a harvest of 348 deer, but it’s also a regular in the top 10, finishing there five times in the past 10 years. Nearby Standish also has finished in the top 10 five times since 2012, while Waterboro has four times.

Vassalboro (five times in the top 10) and Sidney (also five times) in Kennebec County have proven productive deer-hunting areas – as has Auburn (eight times), which has an urban center that quickly transitions into farm fields and woods, all good deer habitat.

Corinna seems a bit of an outlier geographically among the top deer-harvest towns in Maine, but IFW’s Bieber said the town of 2,200 has an engaged hunting community.


Jim Emerson, 71, has hunted in Corinna all his life. The retired Dexter police chief said it’s an easy place to hunt with no hills or mountains and flat farmland that draws in deer, as well as a robust community of hunters.

“Most of us have lived here for a long, long time. We all are hunters and we all have friends who are from away who come here to hunt. I have several who come to my hunting camp. So that’s why we have a big hunter population,” Emerson said.

Kory Drake of Waterville has hunted in Corinna with his brother for the past 15 years because it is rich with deer.

“There’s a lot of farmland, so the deer are obviously out grazing in the fields,” Drake said. “And in Corinna there’s a lot of little side roads or ATV trails. So I can go from a 100-acre field over to the next field in a matter of minutes. Both of my good deer I’ve gotten I actually got right out of the field. I didn’t have to go into the woods at all, other than to retrieve it.”


But Maine’s deer-hunting hot spot in the past decade is York.


Matt Brock, who works at Eldredge Lumber & Hardware, a deer tagging station in York, was not surprised by the harvest data.

“If I were to deconstruct it, I would say it’s because a lot of people feed deer in the area. We sell a lot of wildlife feed,” Brock said. “We always see a surge of deer when the season opens.”

Neither were Lillian Preston and her father, David, shocked to learn that York leads all Maine towns in the deer harvests. A 14-year-old hunter, Lillian killed her second deer in just her second year of hunting when she went out to hunt with her father in York on Youth Deer Day on Saturday and harvested a buck. When the father-daughter hunting team from Kittery hunt in York, they see plenty of deer.

“We’ll go back out this evening to see if she can get a doe,” David Preston said Saturday morning.

Now that he’s retired, Drew, 71, hunts near his home in York three to four days a week – and usually harvests as many deer as he can with bonus permits. Last year he harvested four deer and gave one to a food pantry, as he intends to do again this year.

When told York proved repeatedly to be the top deer-harvest town in Maine, Drew was not the least surprised.

“I do my part,” he deadpanned.

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