New Hampshire FGD Changes Deer Rules in WMU-A

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With the start of New Hampshire's archery deer season on Saturday, September 15, 2007, hunters should note new regulations in Wildlife Management Unit A in the North Country. An antler point restriction is in place in this unit, and the number of days available to hunt deer has been reduced, in an effort to improve the "buck age class structure" in WMU-A. In other words, the deer population in the North Country has fewer older, mature bucks than is desired in the herd.

"These measures, made with extensive input from the public, are in place to restore a healthy balance to the herd," said Kent Gustafson, Deer Project Leader for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. "Hunters need to be aware that it is not legal to take spikehorns this year in WMU-A, and deer season dates have been shortened for this area."

Under the new restrictions, to be legally harvested in WMU-A, an "antlered" deer must have at least one antler three inches long, with at least one point off that antler that is at least one inch long. An "antlerless" deer must be a deer without antlers, or with antlers less than three inches long. "Spike" deer are not legal at any time in WMU-A (unless both antlers are less than three inches in length, in which case they are legally considered antlerless deer). These restrictions do not apply to youth hunters during the youth hunt weekend (October 27-28).

There is also a 7-day reduction in both the archery and firearms hunting seasons in WMU-A; the archery season will end on December 8, and the regular firearm season on December 2, one week earlier than the rest of the state. The muzzleloader deer season begins a few days later in WMU-A than the rest of the state. For specific dates and details, consult the 2007-2008 N.H. Hunting Digest (to download, click here and on orange publication cover), available from Fish and Game license agents.

The goal of maintaining a desirable sex and age composition in the deer population is the product of a recently completed deer management planning process coordinated by N.H. Fish and Game. In 2005-2006, Fish and Game worked with a 33-member public working group that reviewed the status of the deer herd, considered public input and recommended deer management goals and objectives for the Department's 10-year Big Game Management Plan. The N.H. Fish and Game Commission adopted the Big Game Management Plan, which guides management through 2015.

"One of the objectives of the plan is to maintain a significant portion of the adult buck population in older, more mature age classes," said Gustafson. "Since then, we've recognized that the age structure in WMU-A has not been meeting this objective, and there is a need to reduce buck harvest and allow a higher proportion to live to older ages."

To help find solutions to this problem, Fish and Game established an Ad Hoc Deer Management Task Force, made up of people with a wide range of interests, from Unit A hunters to local sporting goods store owners, as well as representatives from the New Hampshire Wildlife Federation and the Quality Deer Management Association, Department staff and Commissioners. This group met four times from September of 2006 through January of 2007, discussing numerous methods of adjusting buck age structure in WMU-A. In the end, the group recommended keeping and expanding reduced season lengths and imposing an antler point restriction. The proposed 2007 deer season rules were based on the input from the Task Force, as well as two public hearings held to receive public comments on the proposal.