The holiday season, with a new year just around the corner, is a time for outdoorsmen and women to reflect on the past year and look forward to great times ahead in the Maine outdoors. Remember, we live in Maine; the most forested state east of the Mississippi, with some of the most abundant game.

In this year-ending article I want to look at the new year-round fishing rules and regulations, look back at the recent deer season, and look ahead at the spring wild turkey season and what it may bring.

There will be plenty of readers who will dispute my “abundant” game statement, but I’m going to stick with it. Before I continue, I will acknowledge that Northern Maine and some areas Downeast have decimated deer populations. This is a problem that biologists and hunters will be dealing with for years to come. Yet — in spite of that problem — Maine is still the place to be if you love to hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors.

Why do I feel we have abundant game? The list is long.

Bow hunters who frequent hunting grounds in the Expanded Archery zones, can tag as many deer as they can shoot. They are allowed one buck (taken after purchasing a permit) and as many does as they want to buy permits for.

Those who may think this is wasteful, or just plain wrong, keep in mind the reason the state established this season was to bring the deer populations down in these areas to a reasonable number. Some of the Expanded Archery zones presently have from 50 to 100 deer per square mile. Way too many deer for a healthy herd, and high concentrations like that are breeding grounds for Lyme disease and other infectious organisms.

If you live in Northern Maine, where deer populations are estimated to be 1-3 per square mile, you look at this part of the state as deer-hunting heaven.

We are giving out bonus deer permits in some coastal and central Maine Wildlife Management Districts; bonus turkey permits are being handed out in the spring; moose hunters are still enjoying a near 80 percent success rate; and bear hunters are seeing success rates that rival some of Canada’s top hunting regions.

In addition we have generous goose and duck seasons, combined with some exciting rabbit hunting and year-round hunting for coyotes. All this adds to my argument, “We have abundant game.”

Deer – mixed bag of success

This deer season seemed to be a year of the haves and have nots. Some hunters scoured the woods day after day hardly seeing a deer, while others seemed to trip over deer every time out.

Because of abundant food, and water available thanks to a very wet November, deer were not forced to move as much or as often. If you didn’t hunt in one of these deer pockets chances are you didn’t see many deer.

Snow during the last week of the muzzleloader season provided late-season hunters with an opportunity to scout their favorite hunting grounds and see if there was any deer traffic. The morning after that first snow, deer were on the move. If you had the right spot, reading tracks was like reading a good book.

You knew the tracks were fresh. You could see where deer were bedding and locate feeding areas. This was all-important information that allowed some hunters to get their deer as the season was winding down. A few are getting 2-4 inches of snow so go out and scout now.

If it snows, head to the deer woods. The information you gain now will come in handy next deer season. If you spot larger tracks with light drag marks, chances are you were on a good buck track and he survived the 2010 season. Will you be able to find him in November 2011?

Tagging stations were a reflection of hunters’ observations. Some stations equaled or exceeded last year’s figures, while other were way off.

Knox and Waldo counties yielded some monster bucks this fall. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to hunt Maine and Virginia again this year, finding success in both. My son, Aaron, bagged a massive Virginia whitetail that is headed for a wall in his Brunswick home. The only debate there is where in the house will this buck hang.

Fish 12 months of year

This is the year Maine anglers were able to try their hand at fishing 12 months a year. The new rules and regulations that cover these new fishing seasons are not easy to digest, and in some cases are downright difficult to understand. The thick law book — available at most town offices — is in effect until March 31, 2012, so don’t throw yours away at the end of the year.

The new fishing regulations divide the state into two zones: the Northern and Western counties and the Southern and Eastern counties (includes the Midcoast), each with a different set of regulations.

Generally speaking, “most” waters in the Midcoast are open from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, unless otherwise indicated in the law book. Each county has a set of letter codes that give additional information. If you find a body of water listed in the county you want to fish, it means there are some special regulations above and beyond the general law. There are also 33 S-codes found on page seven that may be attached to your favorite body of water.

You can simplify this entire process by going out and hiring a lawyer, or better yet, take one fishing with you.

Don’t forget to buy your new 2011 license so you can fish starting Jan. 1.

Wild turkeys

I don’t have to say much about the wild turkeys in Maine other than: “They are everywhere!”

Some southern states used to boast about their quality turkey hunting. From what I have seen, and from what out-of-state hunters tell me, Maine is at or near the top of the wild turkey hunting list.

The 2011 Youth Turkey Hunting Day will be April 30, with the general spring season running from May 2 through June 4.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the state adds more bonus turkey permits soon.

What will 2011 bring?

A new year is upon us. I’m not one for making New Year’s resolutions, but there is one resolution we all should make. Let’s promise to introduce at least one person to our favorite outdoor activity or activities. What we have in this state is too wonderful to keep to ourselves.

About two and a half years ago a doctor told me I would not be around to see 2010. Well, last year was wonderful and I’m going to enjoy every day this year, with as many of those days as possible spent in the Maine outdoors.

Enjoy your time in the great outdoors.

Ken Bailey, a Registered Maine Guide, is VillageSoup’s outdoor editor. He lives in Hope with his wife, Sandy.