Deer hearing sees spirited exchange over hunting regulations

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(Host) Tuesday night, the first in a series of meetings on Vermont’s deer herd brought out a spirited crowd of hunters anxious to see changes in the state’s deer hunting regulations.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Three hundred and fifty hunters filled the Springfield High School Auditorium Tuesday night and it seemed everyone had ideas on how to improve deer hunting in Vermont.

“One of the problems I want to see addressed is the coyote problem…”

“What I’m complaining about is the loss of habitat for hunters by posted land…”

“I’d like to see bow season brought to two weeks instead of three…”

(Zind) The Fish and Wildlife Board is holding four hearings around the state to solicit opinions on proposed changes to Vermont’s deer hunting regulations. There are two key proposals: One would allow hunters to take only bucks with an antler that has least two points. The limit would be tried on an experimental basis in three of Vermont’s 14 wildlife districts.

The other change would limit to one the number of bucks a hunter could take in a year. Right now a hunter could take up to three bucks. Many spoke in support of the idea of the buck limit, as long as a hunter could also shoot a doe in the same year. Mike Jasinski of Springfield wants to go further.

(Jasinski) “I feel as though you should have one deer. Once you shoot that deer you’re done for the season until we build the herd up. Are you a sportsman or a meat hunter?”

(Zind) There were roars of approval and mutters of disapproval at many of the ideas expressed. But there was also consensus. Like many, Glenn Eno of Mount Tabor supports the idea of requiring hunters to take only bucks with at least two points on an antler, instead of the younger spike horns.

(Eno) “Five years ago, my family, my friends, we decided we would institute our own spike horn rule. So we haven’t taken spike horns in the last four to five years. What I’d like to see is the spike horn law statewide.”

(Zind) Hunters unanimously called on the Fish and Wildlife Board to apply the limit on the size of the buck that can be taken to the entire state, rather than only three wildlife districts.

And some who spoke cautioned the board to look closely at deer populations in each part of the state, because there are differences in numbers and available habitat. Forester Tim Morton of Saxton’s River says it would be irresponsible to raise deer numbers in Windham and Windsor Counties.

(Morton) “I think that we have this backwards. We should first be looking at the habitat and seeing how we can improve the habitat.”

(Zind) At the end of the meeting, members of the Fish and Wildlife Board asked for a show of hands on a number of questions. When they asked how many people wanted to keep the current deer hunting regulations without changes, only a few hands were raised, reflecting a sentiment one hunter expressed earlier in the evening.

(Hunter) “A year ago when we had this meeting, we had 35 hunters. And we still told you what we wanted and you didn’t do nothing. So we’re watching you this year.”

(Zind) The Fish and Wildlife Board will hold another hearing Thursday evening in Rutland and two more next week in Lyndonville and St. Albans. The board will vote on changes to Vermont’s deer hunting regulations in April.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Springfield.

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