Big Changes Coming In Deer Hunting Rules

Front Page / Dec. 9, 2004 12:00am EST

Big Changes Coming In Deer Hunting Rules

In the wake of the worst deer-hunting season in years (for the hunters), the 14-member Fish and Wildlife Board—recently expanded from its traditional seven members—met last week to begin considering changes to Vermont’s deer hunting regulations. The state legislature handed over power for regulating the deer hunt to the expanded board earlier this year.

One of the items the board will take up is a proposal from F&W officials to restrict the number of spikehorns that may be taken in three "experimental" areas in state.

Another proposal would restrict hunters from taking more than one deer in one year. Now, if they’re really lucky, they can take three: in rifle season, bow season and muzzle-loader season.

Sportsmen and women in the Randolph area have already begun discussion on the changes.

F&W spokesman John Hall said this week that the proposed rule "would allow some of the bucks to live longer, become larger and have better antlers."

"There is tremendous interest—especially among younger hunters in state—in doing this," he said. These hunters are closely watching hunting reports from Pennsylvania, which is in its third year of enacting a similar restriction on antler size, he said.

Specifically, the proposed rule change in Vermont "would entail restricting the antlers to at least two forks one side," Hall said.

"We have for many decades in Vermont taken 50-60% of the one-and-a-half-year-old bucks during November," he said, adding, "Very few states take that many of that age class."

The reason for that difference has less to do with regulations than with hunters’ ready access to the woods. Vermont’s network of back roads and landowner cooperation make it relatively easy for hunters to hunt much of the state. The situation is distinctly different in portions of New Hampshire and much of Maine, with their large tracts of timber company land, he said.

Vermont is divvied into 24 deer management units, delineated by highways, and F&W folks would like to try the restricted season in three of those units, one in the north, one central, and one south, he said.

Having these "experimental" areas would allow biologists to compare changes in deer size and population with those in the "control" management areas, he said. It would take at least three years to determine the effectiveness of this change, he said.

"It’s a hot-button issue," Hall said. ""Hunters realize that deer numbers are down."

Hall, a 35-year veteran of the department, said he sees "an opportunity." The changes could "help better the satisfaction of hunters" without "threatening the sustainability of the resource," he said. The new board, he added, could also improve responsiveness to public concerns.

Hall predicted that the F&W Board will hold public meetings on proposed changes to the deer season. Names and contact information for board members are listed on www.vtfishandwildlife.com, under "About Us."

By Sandy Cooch

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