Board revises proposed changes for deer hunting

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(Host) The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board will consider several revisions to proposed changes in the state’s fall deer hunting season. The revisions comes after a series of crowded public hearings last month in which hunters expressed their dissatisfaction with the way the state’s deer herd is being managed.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Earlier this year, the board had floated two key proposals. One would impose a size limit on bucks taken in three of the state’s 24 wildlife management zones. In those zones, hunters would be able to shoot only bucks with two or more points on at least one antler, leaving the younger bucks.

At the hearings last month, hunters clearly favored the antler limit, but wanted it imposed everywhere. The board has now revised its proposed changes to make the antler limit statewide.

The second change would cut from three down to one the number of bucks a single hunter can take in rifle, muzzleloader and archery seasons combined. The department and the board say they’ll now up the proposed limit to two. Many people pointed out that whether its one, two or three, the policy will have little impact on the deer heard because relatively few hunters actually kill more than a single buck in a year.

But the most significant change the board is now considering would affect archery season. Deer shot during bow season make up an increasing proportion of the total number of antlerless does and fawns taken in Vermont. Until now, a hunter with an archery license could shoot an antlerless deer anywhere in the state. Under the new proposal, antlerless permits will be issued for archery season that will specify where a deer can be taken.

The idea is to allow to state to control deer populations in specific wildlife management zones. Rob Borowske is chairman of the Fish and Wildlife Board.

(Borowske) “Last year there were over 2,000 doe taken in archery wherever the hunters wanted to take them. Now we’d have control to say some need to be taken here and fewer need to be taken here. We’ve never been able to do that.”

(Zind) Borowske says if the changes are approved by the board, both hunters and the deer herd will be better off in the long run. But he warned that the number of bucks taken next hunting season will likely drop significantly because of the limit on antler size.

(Borowske) “It’s going to be about a 25 to 30 percent reduction in buck take the first year. That’s huge, but people have to know that up front. The following year should be better and better. Within three to five years, we’re back up to killing the infamous 10,000 bucks in rifle season.”

(Zind) Hunters will have a chance to talk about the proposals at the annual public hearings on the deer herd held by the Fish and Wildlife Department. There will be five hearings beginning March 16. The Fish and Wildlife Board will likely vote on the proposals in April.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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