Deer Hunting Results Are on Track

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Vermont deer hunting results are on track with expectations, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department.

"We made four major changes in deer hunting regulations that we all knew would reduce the number of deer being taken by hunters this year, and the kill totals are down accordingly," said Wildlife Biologist John Buck.

The minimum antler size of a legal buck was increased from one 3-inch antler to at least one antler having two or more points. This rule protects "spike bucks," or about half of the yearling buck population, allowing them to continue to grow. Yearlings normally make up about half of the total number of bucks taken in the November rifle season. Increasing the minimum antler size and reducing the number of young bucks being taken is designed to improve hunter satisfaction by increasing the number of older aged bucks in the deer population in future years.

Nine of Vermont's Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), primarily in the Northeast Kingdom and the Green Mountain Range, were closed to the taking of any antlerless deer, including during archery season. These were closed to antlerless hunting to increase the deer population in WMUs where the herd had failed to respond to reductions in muzzleloader antlerless permits in recent years.

Baiting and feeding deer was prohibited. Baiting and feeding often cause deer to concentrate in unnaturally large numbers, increasing the disease transmission possibility among deer. It is impossible to predict how much the prohibition on baiting will reduce deer kill numbers, but due to its popularity in former years, the change is likely to result in fewer deer being taken by hunters, especially in archery season.

The annual limit on the number of deer a hunter may take was reduced from three to two. Hunters asked for this reduction to further increase the buck population.

With reports still coming in, the current deer kill tally is archery season 1,497, youth weekend 1,181, and rifle season 2,528. These numbers will increase in the weeks ahead as reports continue to be received from deer reporting stations. A final count is normally available by early February.

"With so many significant changes to the hunting season, we will need three to five years of experience with these new regulations to be able to evaluate harvest trends," said Buck.

Vermont's second part of a split archery season and the muzzleloader season occur within the same dates -- December 3-11.

For more on Vermont's deer hunting regulations, get a copy of "Vermont Deer Hunting 2005" where licenses are sold or from Fish & Wildlife's website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com).