Deer taken in Vermont lower due to regulations

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(Host) Vermont Fish and Wildlife officials say the final results from last fall’s deer season are in and they match their expectations.

The number of deer taken was considerably lower as a result of new hunting regulations.

The regulations were adopted last year after much debate over how to improve the health of the state’s deer herd.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) It’s hard to compare the numbers from the 2005 dear season to any other recent year because last year deer hunting regulations underwent their biggest changes in over a century.

Under the new rules hunters could no longer kill young spikehorn bucks which typically accounted for more than a third of the bucks taken. As a result the number of bucks killed dropped by 35% from the previous year.

It’s a dramatic change but one the Fish and Wildlife Department says it expected.

John Buck is a biologist with the department. Buck says fewer deer killed last season combined with a relatively mild winter should translate into more deer when hunters return to the woods this fall.

(Buck) “The message is that the buck harvest should be higher of course, but I think what makes for greater satisfaction, what hunters enjoy even more than getting a deer is seeing a deer. Certainly the deer numbers should be higher than they were this past year and in previous recent years anyway.”

(Zind) One key indicator of hunter satisfaction is license sales. Last year most hunting licenses were purchased before the new rules were adopted. This year Fish and Wildlife officials will be watching to see if the new rules affect license sales, which are the department’s main source of revenue.

Buck says it’s too early to tell if the regulations will result in better hunting and larger bucks in the long term. He says the department plans to stay the course unless there are compelling reasons to make more changes.

(Buck) “We’re looking at least a five year period to look at how this change affects the deer herd and how it affects deer hunting.”

(Zind) Buck says hunters responded well to the changes. There were fewer violations issued last season than in previous years.

Last year’s changes also included a ban on baiting of deer, a two deer annual limit and closing some areas of the state to most antlerless hunting.

The Fish and Wildlife Department is holding a series of public hearings this month to discuss the impact of the changes.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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