Big Changes on the Way for Deer Hunters, Including a Longer Season

After two years of discussion with the public, an in-depth management study and the need for updating its management plan, the beneficiaries of proposed changes will be deer hunters if approval is granted.

Kaiden Gauther with her fantastic Vermont monster whitetail.

Kaiden Gauther with her fantastic Vermont monster whitetail.

The Fish and Wildlife Board gave a first-vote preliminary approval to the proposed changes at its Jan. 21 meeting in Montpelier. A series of public hearings, follow-up board meetings and two more board votes will be following in coming months before any changes can be adopted.

The changes, a mixture of department proposals and board-introduced motions, come on the heels of a comprehensive deer management study and two years of public involvement, including meetings of regional working groups.

Three of the proposed changes would take effect this year. The first part of archery deer season would be lengthened by ten days – seven days prior to the existing season and three days after. Crossbows would be legalized for use whenever a regular bow and arrow could be used. Archery and muzzleloader season limits would be reduced from three to two deer.

“After receiving a number of petitions and requests to make a wide variety of changes to the current seasons and regulations, the Fish & Wildlife Department and the board began in early 2013 to take a comprehensive look at all of the rules around deer hunting,” said Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter.

“After discussions with the department, and with a working group made up of dedicated and experienced deer hunters, the board has advanced a reasonable and thoughtful set of proposed changes. We will continue to discuss these options with the board and the public as we strive to always improve how we manage deer, deer habitat and to ensure deer hunting opportunities continue.”

If passed, a prohibition on the possession and use of deer urine-based lures and other deer fluids while deer hunting would be effective in 2016. This prohibition is a precaution against the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) into Vermont.

“Many of the chronic wasting disease outbreaks in other states have started in captive deer facilities exactly like the ones used to produce commercial deer urine lures,” said deer biologist Adam Murkowski. “Because CWD can be spread through deer urine, the Fish & Wildlife Board and the department are working to protect Vermont’s deer herd from this potentially devastating disease by prohibiting the use of natural deer urine lures in Vermont.”

The archery season would begin the fourth Saturday in September and end the fourth Wednesday in October. The second part of archery season would remain the same – nine days beginning the Saturday after the end of the November deer season.

The lengths of youth deer season, November rifle season and muzzleloader season would remain the same.

The proposed regulation changes come after the Fish & Wildlife Department surveyed hunters during the past two years in response to changes suggested by some hunters. One survey shows that 68 percent of hunters are generally satisfied with Vermont deer hunting, indicating that a major overhaul of deer hunting regulations is not needed at this time.

The department will also conduct a three-year evaluation of the effects of the proposed regulation changes, including gathering more data on the current antler point restriction of at least one antler having two or more points.

“Preliminary numbers from 2014 hunting seasons compared to an average of the previous three years reflect a stable deer population in the state,” said Murkowski. “Vermont hunters took a total of 13,590 deer: 3,143 in archery season, 1,652 during youth weekend, 6,140 in rifle season, and 2,655 in muzzleloader season.”

Wording of the proposed regulation changes, additional information and a link for the public to add comments can be found at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.