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Preliminary Report Reveals Good Deer Season for Vermont

From Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department

-- Vermont deer hunters had a very good season according to preliminary numbers recently released by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department. 

"Last year's favorable winter conditions and recent changes in Vermont deer hunting regulations are credited with improving the number of deer and increasing the number of bigger, older bucks taken by hunters," said State Wildlife Biologist Shawn Haskell, who chairs Vermont's deer management team.

By Jan. 23, the preliminary buck harvest of 2007 was 8,875. At least 5,520 antlerless deer were taken, including 532 doe fawns, 519 antlerless bucks, and 4,469 adult does. As usual, the antlerless buck to doe fawn ratio was about 1:1.

Including a few unknowns, total harvest was about 14,500 deer. In contrast, the 2006 total harvest of 12,678 consisted of 7,804 bucks and 4,856 antlerless deer.

According to data collected by biologists at check stations during opening weekend of rifle season, the age structure of harvested bucks continues to increase since the spike-ban antler regulation went into effect in 2005. 

Historically, bucks did not live long in Vermont. Prior to 2005, a decade of annual age data revealed a fairly consistent age structure of about 60-25-12-3 percentages of 1-2-3-4+ year-old males, respectively. Estimated age structure of the harvest (not population) increased in 2005 to 44-32-19-5 percent of the same age classes. 

Haskell points out that in 2005, the increased percentages of 2 and 3 yr-olds sampled from the harvest were simply artifacts of the new antler regulation, not because there were more old deer in the population. The spike-ban made the percentage of yearlings in the harvest decrease in 2005.

In 2006, the estimated age structure percentages of the harvest were 37-42-19-2, again based on data from the bio-check stations.  That was the first time that 2 yr-olds outnumbered yearlings, suggesting that the spike-ban did spare yearlings in 2005 that were subsequently harvested as 2 yr-olds in 2006. 

In 2007, estimated age structure percentages were 26-49-22-3, quite a swing from 2005.  The surge of 2 yr-olds this year may have been due to good fawn survival during the mild winter of 2005-06.  A small percentage of those yearlings protected in 2005 likely made it into the 2007 harvest as 3 yr-olds. 

Average weights of bio-checked deer statewide have increased along with age structure.  Average dressed weights, in pounds, in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007 were 125.2, 125.1, 134.1, 135.6, and 138.0, respectively. 

Statewide buck and total harvests from 2003 and 2007 were very similar.  However, with harvested bucks weighing about 13 pounds more on average, that's about 115,000 pounds more deer and 50,000 pounds more meat harvested in 2007 compared to 2003.

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