Wildlife officials eyeing results as bow season begins

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Vermont’s bow hunters will take to the woods tomorrow, signaling the beginning of this year’s deer season.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, hunters and Fish and Wildlife officials are hoping to see the first results of controversial changes made to Vermont’s hunting regulations last year.

(Zind) With fair weather forecast, it won’t be a great opening weekend for bow hunters. Deer tend to move around a lot more during inclement weather.

Still, there’s a feeling of optimism among hunters this year that wasn’t there last season.

Ron Pelkey runs Pelkey’s Archery in St. Albans.

(Pelkey) “The talk is much more positive and there’s guys hunting this year that weren’t last year.”

(Zind) Going into the 2005 deer hunting season, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board decided to limit the size and number of bucks hunters could take.

Archery hunters were tagged with additional regulations, including closing much of the state to hunting antlerless deer.

The new regulations are designed to increase deer numbers in parts of the state and boost the number of older bucks.

Pelkey says hunters credit an overall increase in deer numbers to last winter’s mild weather.

But they’re also spotting bigger, older bucks and they’re hopeful that the changes they complained about last year will begin to reap benefits this season.

(Pelkey) “The guys, I think, are seeing what happens with a little patience.”

(Zind) State wildlife biologist John Buck also credits the rule changes for anecdotal evidence that there are more, older bucks in the woods this year.

(Buck) “Part of this experiment is not only hunter satisfaction but to see if we can extend the mean lifespan of the male population. Most deer die before their first birthday, and those that live past that, males live to 3, 4, and five years old.”

(Zind) It won’t be until after archery, rifle and muzzleloader seasons have ended that biologists will have enough information to gauge the effect of last year’s rule changes.

State Fish and Wildlife officials also hope that a healthier deer herd with larger bucks will bring more hunters into the woods and help slow the decades-long decline in interest in the sport here and elsewhere.

It’s creating financial problems for the Fish and Wildlife Department, due to declining license sales, and threatening a Vermont tradition.

For VPR news I’m Steve Zind.

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