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Vermont 2009 deer management proposal reflects healthy herd

From the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department

-- Vermont’s deer herd is currently productive and healthy, according to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. 

The department’s annual proposal for a regulated deer harvest, was approved April 15, and calls for
a harvest of 7,892 antlerless deer through a combination of either-sex hunting during the archery season, an either-sex youth weekend hunt, and by issuing 23,125 muzzleloader season antlerless permits. 

All of Vermont’s 24 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) would have been open to taking antlerless deer during the archery season, however, the Board voted to keep WMU-E closed to antlerless deer hunting during archery season. Opening WMU-E south of Route 2 is being considered. 

Similar to last year, two deer would be allowed during archery season with two archery licenses, and one legal buck would be allowed anywhere in the state during archery season.  In WMUs open to antlerless deer hunting, both deer taken during the archery season could be antlerless deer. 

Also similar to last year, youth deer weekend on Nov.7-8 is proposed to be an either-sex season statewide.  Any buck could be taken during this season, regardless of antler length or points.  This is important for data collected at biological check stations.

Muzzleloader season antlerless permits are proposed for 14 of the 24 WMUs with an increase of 1,075 permits from 2008.  Permit increases are focused on WMUs with the highest deer densities and where winter weather has been mild. 

The slight increase over last year in proposed antlerless deer hunting permits is a response to growing deer numbers in some WMUs and is designed to keep the deer population in balance with its habitat.  WMUs that would receive more permits are F2, K1 and K2 on the western side of the state, and M2 and O2 in southeastern Vermont. 

Nine WMUs would receive fewer permits under this year’s proposal.  Department biologists are conducting dead deer searches in deer wintering areas in late-April, and may suggest some minor adjustments to muzzleloader permits before the Board’s second vote, pending the results of those wintering area surveys.

Vermont deer project leader Dr. Shawn Haskell points out that Vermont’s deer population has increased more than expected along the western side of the state. The deer herd is healthier than it has been in the past 50 years with heavier fawns and yearling bucks, and good reproductive potential.

Haskell says Vermont’s deer have not only increased in number since 2005 but also in size.  Fawns taken in the 2008 hunting season weighed an average three pounds heavier than they did ten years ago, which is important for winter survival.  He also reports that the antler regulation change that began in 2005 is contributing to older bucks being in the population and increased hunter satisfaction. 

“If we send as many deer as we had last December into a severe winter next year, I would expect more of them to die than did this year,” Haskell said.  “We also don’t want to severely damage winter habitat and lose our ability to support a healthy deer herd going into the future.”

The definition of a legal buck will remain any white-tailed deer with at least one antler having two or more points one inch or longer. 

The Antlerless and Youth Season Recommendation is posted on the Fish & Wildlife Department's website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com).  Under Hunting and Trapping, click on Big Game. 

Antlerless permit applications will be available later this year on Fish & Wildlife’s website and at license agents.

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