New regulations approved for deer hunting

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(Host) The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board has voted to approve several proposed changes to deer hunting regulations. The decision comes in the wake of hunter complaints that the recent deer season was one of the worst ever.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, its likely the proposal approved Wednesday night will undergo serious revision in coming months.

(Zind) The recent deer season has left Vermont hunters angry and disappointed, complaining of too few deer and a scarcity of bucks. Fish and Wildlife Board members like John Barrows have been getting an earful.

(Barrows) “There was one caller that was yelling so loud that I had to hold the phone about out to here. I never did get his name. He did make mention that we should all be fired and we should be ashamed of ourselves for what we’ve done to the deer herd.”

(Zind) On Wednesday the board voted to propose key changes to deer hunting regulations. The changes are aimed at increasing the number of bucks, especially larger bucks in Vermont’s woods.

Currently hunters can shoot younger spikehorns. Under the proposal, the state would allow hunters only to take bucks with an antler that has least two points. The limit would apply in three of Vermont’s 14 wildlife districts. That would give the board a chance to see how it works before trying it statewide.

Another change approved by the board would limit Vermont hunters to one buck per year. But it was clear from the discussion that many board members feel the proposal is flawed.

Board member Dana Kittell says it’s important the board put something on the table now, even if it’s far from perfect.

(Kittell) “We have to start the process. No, I’m not in agreement with it, I think I made that very clear.”

(Zind) The Fish and Wildlife Board will hold four public hearings on the proposed regulations, beginning in January. After that, the board will vote again on the new regulations. By then there could be significant changes to the proposal.

The last Legislature gave the board new powers to make decisions about the deer herd. It also doubled the size of the board. With so many new faces, its clear members are still getting to know each other. But after a chaotic earlier meeting in which nothing was decided, board Chair Rob Borowske says he’s relieved to see board take action.

(Borowske) “I think after this deer season it’s more important than ever. I think it does send a message, an immediate notice to the public that the board is going to be willing to take this seriously and is going to be willing to make some changes.”

(Zind) Unhappiness with Vermont’s hunting season has turned into an economic problem for the Fish and Wildlife Department as hunters choose to go out-of-state. The department is faced with a deficit due to declining revenues from license sales.

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

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