For the past 18 months, the Fish and Wildlife Department has been surveying Vermont hunters to see if the time has come to make some major changes in the state’s various deer hunting seasons.
Mark Scott is the department’s director of wildlife. He says the review is looking at virtually every aspect of the deer season, including when to hold a separate season for hunters who use a bow and arrow, a muzzle loader or a rifle.
“We haven’t really gone and comprehensively looked at deer hunting in Vermont,” said Scott. “It’s been a long time, I can’t exactly quote, but it’s been 40, 50 years ago that Vermont established that this when you should hunt bucks with a rifle - 16 days that shall include ending on the Thanksgiving weekend.”
When the project was started about a year ago, Scott says he thought it would be completed in a matter of months. But he says it’s turned out to be more complicated than he originally thought.
That’s why he doesn’t want there to be a rush to judgment on many of these issues.
“We’ve got to make sure that any changes we do, that we don’t cause an uproar within our hunting community and the landowners that hunters depend on in the state,” said Scott.
The department is considering a change in the rifle season to reduce the number of bucks a hunter can shoot from two to one. Commissioner Louis Porter says hunters are evenly split on this question.
“Our deer hunters in Vermont are extremely sophisticated about understanding the interplay of deer populations and hunting rules and understanding the interplay of habitat and deer populations and they’re very thoughtful about it,” said Porter. “I think you would find some who vigorously oppose it and find some who vigorously support it.”
Porter says the department is still accepting comments about the future of the deer herd at its website. Once there’s a draft plan, Porter says he’ll hold public hearings throughout the state to get additional input on the proposed changes.