Fish and Wildlife Board plans public hearings on deer herd

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(Host) The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board has scheduled four hearings to get the public’s input on proposed changes to deer hunting regulations. After a season that left many hunters disappointed, the meetings will likely draw large crowds.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) The last Legislature relinquished decisions on the state’s deer herd to the Fish and Wildlife Board and this marks the first time the board has come up with its own set of proposed changes. With dissatisfaction running high among deer hunters, board chair Rob Borowske says there’s been tremendous interest in the proposals.

(Borowske) “We have more interest than we’ve had in 20 to 30 years. It’s nice to have support for changes, rather than changing when there’s not support.”

(Zind) The proposed regulations would limit to one the number of bucks a hunter could take in a single year. The proposal would also restrict the size of buck that can be taken in selected areas of the state to those with two discernable points on an antler or more. Currently, hunters can shoot younger spikehorns. In the future, the larger buck limit could be imposed statewide.

Matt Crawford is the outdoor writer for the Burlington Free Press. Crawford says while there’s a tremendous amount of discussion in the hunting community about what should be done to better manage the deer herd, there’s no clear consensus.

Crawford says the danger is that sound science may get lost in an emotional debate. He says that’s what happened in Pennsylvania where some of the same restrictions being discussed in Vermont were implemented over the past five years. A few weeks ago the biologist who headed Pennsylvania’s program stepped down.

(Crawford) “And he said the reason he resigned is that there is so much pressure to do what is not scientifically right. And I think that’s going to happen here. The real need for balancing the amount of deer on the habitat against the perceived need of wanting more deer, or seeing more deer is on a collision course.”

(Zind) Crawford says the condition of Vermont’s deer herd may not be as critical as some say. He points out that taken together last fall’s bow, rifle, youth and muzzle loader seasons weren’t far from the historical average.

The Fish and Wildlife Board’s hearings on the proposed regulations will be held February 15, 17, 22 and 24 in Springfield, Rutland, Lyndonville and St. Albans. The regulations won’t be finalized until the board takes two more votes after the public hearings.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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