Vermont deer hunters were successful in 2012, with archery, youth, rifle, and muzzleloader totals within management objectives set by the Fish & Wildlife Department.
The total harvest for all four seasons increased in 2012 by 14 percent from the previous year’s harvest. Hunters killed 6,300 deer during rifle season, an increase of 9 percent over last year’s rifle total of 5,759 deer.
“There are going to be fluctuations in the deer harvest from year to year based on the severity of the previous winter, food availability, and deer density,” said Mark Scott, director of wildlife for the Fish & Wildlife Department. “We anticipate those fluctuations in harvest and try to manage for a healthy and stable deer herd; to keep the fluctuations small rather than seeing big booms and crashes.”
Last winter’s relatively mild weather and shallow snow depths likely contributed to this fall’s elevated deer harvest. Additionally, the low availability of traditional food sources such as apple orchards and beech and oak stands this past summer and fall resulted in deer changing their movement patterns.
The archery season harvest rose this year by 25 percent, to 3,384 deer. This number was also above the previous three-year average of 2,825 deer. Youth hunters killed 1,784 deer this year, representing a 9 percent increase over 2011, and an increase from the previous three-year average of 1,661 deer.
“Youth weekend continues to prove successful in recruiting young hunters to help preserve Vermont’s hunting heritage,” said Adam Murkowski, deer project leader for the Fish & Wildlife Department. “This weekend is important for providing young hunters with opportunities to make memories with family and mentors that will last a lifetime.”
Hunters killed 2,482 deer with muzzleloaders in 2012, a 16 percent increase from last year.
“This year’s successful muzzleloader harvest is the result of a moderate increase in the number of antlerless permits approved by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board,” explained Murkowski. “The antlerless limit allows for a slow growth in the herd while maintaining deer densities within population objectives set forth in Vermont’s big game plan.”
“This was a particularly good year for hunters taking deer with larger body and rack sizes,” added Curtis Smiley, President of the Big Game Trophy Club. “There were multiple deer throughout the state that were reported to weigh over 230 pounds and one that was reported at 247 pounds.”
All totals are subject to recount, which may result in small changes in the final report due in March.
Hunters interested in deer management and Vermont’s new deer planning process are encouraged to attend one of two public input meetings, held from 7-9 p.m. at the Kehoe Conservation Camp in Castleton on Jan. 30 and at Spaulding High School Cafeteria in Barre on Jan. 31.