State wants to expand big game hunting

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(Host) The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife will hold two public hearings next week on a 10-year, big game management plan. 

The plan will help the department manage Vermont’s deer, moose, bear and wild turkey populations – which it says are thriving.

For that reason, the department wants to expand big game hunting opportunities in Vermont.  

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) There have been times in the past when Vermont’s big game populations weren’t faring so well.  Fifty years ago there were virtually no wild turkeys in the state. Now there are an estimated 50,000. 

A few decades ago there were more deer than the land could support and both the deer herd and habitat suffered. 

State wildlife biologist John Buck says big game numbers are good now, but there are concerns that there are too many deer and moose in some areas of the state.  That’s why the draft management plan proposes giving hunters more opportunities. 

(Buck) "For all of the species, especially deer, we’re looking at expanding perhaps opportunities for archery hunters and opportunity for muzzle loader hunters by extending the seasons or adding seasons.  In the case of moose, there’s been a lot of interest in an archery-only season for moose."

(Zind) Those changes are also designed to increase hunter numbers.  In Vermont and in the nation, those numbers have long been declining.

The Fish and Wildlife Department depends on hunters to keep game populations at manageable levels.  But it also relies on them for revenue from license sales.

The draft plan also says hunting is the only practical way to reduce growing deer numbers in the state’s more populated areas.

One idea is to establish a certification program to let experienced bow hunters to take deer in suburban areas where there is still enough forested land to hunt safely.  Buck says deer have become a nuisance in places like Chittenden County, where they’re invading yards and destroying gardens.

(Buck) "We’re looking for ways to, in areas where it’s appropriate in terms of safety and acceptance, to be able to hunt deer more actively to keep deer numbers at a level people can live with.  There are also concerns with disease:  Lyme Disease is becoming more and more common in Vermont. Deer are a key link to Lyme Disease."

(Zind) Buck also says the state will likely continue a ban on taking young spike horn bucks.   The regulation was due to expire at the end of the coming hunting season, but it’s credited with improving the size of the bucks hunters have been taking in recent years.  

The Department of Fish and Wildlife will hold public hearings on the draft big game plan next week in Montpelier and in Rutland.

For VPR News, I’m Steve Zind.

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