Fish & Wildlife proposes dropping hunting regulation

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(Host) The Fish and Wildlife Board has proposed dropping a controversial deer hunting regulation. The board held a special meeting last night in Waterbury.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) The meeting lasted for more than four hours. But despite many questions, it was clear from early on that most board members wanted to abandon the controversial section of a proposal they’d approved earlier. It would have limited the number of deer a hunter could take in a single year to two – only one of which could be a buck. The board has decided to keep the two deer limit, but under the rule given preliminary approval last night, both can be bucks.

The board also gave initial approval to an antler restriction designed to allow Vermont’s buck population to mature. Under the proposed rule, a buck with antlers longer than three inches can’t legally be taken unless it has at least two points on an antler, the second point being at least an inch long. The restriction won’t apply to Vermont youth hunting season.

The changes come after the Fish and Wildlife Department told the board last week that under the one buck limit it could lose nearly two million dollars in license sales and other revenue.

Fish and Wildlife Board member, Dana Kittell, said the economic impact of the group’s decision has to be a high priority.

(Kittell) “And now that I look at this department losing two million dollars, that has got to be a number one consideration. Because everything else doesn’t matter if we don’t have the money to manage the resource.”

(Zind) The board also decided last night to keep a ban on deer baiting. And it retained the same rules for hunting antlerless deer with the ability to close some of the state’s wildlife management units to antlerless hunting.

After the board gave its preliminary approval to the changes, one member said he hopes the decision will end what he called “open season” on the group. The debate over managing the deer herd escalated after last hunting season. And the board’s decision on the one buck limit was especially controversial. Board member, Robert Shannon, says he feels the group’s actions have been misrepresented.

(Shannon) “I feel like there’s been some tactics done in this process that just don’t seem to be fair to what this board did. We put seven months of all of our energy into this.”

(Zind) Shannon and other members asked the Department of Fish and Wildlife to improve communication with the board, provide it with additional information and more consistent advice. The board is expected to finalize the deer regulations at a meeting later this month.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind in Waterbury.

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