Fish & Wildlife Recommends Drop in Antlerless Permits

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The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has recommended a reduction in the number of antlerless permits to be issued in 2003. At the April 16 Fish and Wildlife Board meeting in Waterbury, the department recommended 7,816 antlerless permits be issued. That represents a 20 percent reduction from the 9,778 permits issued in 2002, and it is the third consecutive year of antlerless permit reductions.

“Winter conditions can present one of the most significant mortality factors for whitetails in Vermont,” said John Buck, who chairs Vermont’s deer management team. “This was the second winter in three years that was above average in severity, and because of that, we are anticipating a decrease in the deer population in all parts of Vermont except along Lake Champlain.”

“Based on examinations of deer made by department biologists last fall, the deer herd went into the past winter in excellent health,” added Buck. “That will help offset the effects of the long, cold and snowy winter of 2003. We want to see the deer herd grow slowly in most regions of the state. This year’s antlerless permit recommendation is intended to allow that to happen.”

The board approved the department’s recommendation on first reading. Before the recommendation may be implemented, the board must approve it on third reading.

The department estimates that 4,394 antlerless deer should be harvested by hunters in 2003 to maintain the deer herd at its current size and allow for slow growth. The state’s deer herd is expected to number between 110,000 and 130,000 by this fall.

Given past trends in archery hunting season and youth hunting season, the department estimates 2,954 of the total antlerless deer would be removed during those two seasons. The remaining 1,440 antlerless deer would be harvested during the muzzleloader season.

“It is critical that Vermont’s deer herd is held to a level that will not damage forest regeneration and the long-term sustainability of our deer yards,” said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Wayne Laroche. “At the same time, we hope to provide as many opportunities for hunting as possible. Antlerless harvests provide us with an ability to regulate the population and balance between both goals.”

Biologists reported that a total of 16,261 deer were taken in the 2002 deer seasons. The archery season total was 3,442. Young hunters took 1,446 deer on youth deer hunting weekend. The November rifle season yielded 8,599 deer. The December muzzleloader season resulted in 2,774 deer being taken.

The winter of 2002-2003 was one of the coldest on record. The statewide winter severity index or WSI of 90 points was almost twice the 30-year average of 53 points. The sustained cold weather allowed snow to accumulate throughout the winter. The only region of the state with lighter snow was the “Lake Plains,” along Lake Champlain.

The 2003 antlerless permit recommendations for each wildlife management unit (WMU) are as follows with the number of deer to be taken in parenthesis: A-630 (84), B-1,953 (329), F1-357 (64), F2-787 (151), H1-243 (47), H2-55 (14), J1-387 (79), J2-670 (139), K2-467 (88), M2-337 (95), N-933 (156), O2-734 (148), Q-263 (46).