Fish & Wildlife Rejects Antler Restrictions

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(Host) The Fish and Wildlife Board moved yesterday to finalize dramatic changes to Vermont’s deer hunting regulations. As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, the board made some unexpected decisions.

(Zind) In a surprise move, the board abandoned the idea of imposing antler restrictions to prevent hunters from taking young spike horns.

Hunters turned out in large numbers at public hearings earlier this year. And there appeared to be widespread support for the restriction. The idea was to allow the buck population to mature and give hunters a chance to take larger animals. Board chairman, Rob Borowski, supported the restrictions. Borowski says he was stunned by the board’s decision.

(Borowski) “If you keep doing the same you get the same. And we are not doing anything to effectively increase the age class of the deer.”

(Zind) The rejection of antler restrictions wasn’t the only surprise. The board also voted to limit hunters to two deer and one buck per year, instead of the two-buck limit it had been considering. Until now, hunters could take up to three bucks – one each in archery, rifle and muzzleloader season. Borowski called the change a tremendous loss of hunter opportunity.

As expected, the board voted to allow the taking of anterless by permit only. The hope is that by controlling the number of anterless deer taken, and where they are taken, the board can better control the distribution of deer around the state.

And the board voted to prohibit the controversial practices of hunting deer by feeding them or putting out bait. The board cited concerns over the spread of diseases like chronic wasting disease. Borowski says he expects many hunters will be unhappy with the board’s decisions.

(Borowski) “I think we’re going to have a huge response. We’ll just wait and see. I think it’s going to be that we let them down.”

(Zind) The board has to vote one more time to finalize the rules, but it’s unlikely it will make any significant changes. The Fish and Wildlife Board is made up of fourteen citizens appointed by the Governor.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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