Rifle season for white-tailed deer opens November 16

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The weekend before rifle season is set aside for youth hunters. Noah Menard of Barton poses proudly with the spikehorn he shot Sunday, November 10, in Barton. He and his father, Nathan, stopped by the Chronicle for a photo before having the deer weighed, but his first buck, taken at a distance of 55 yards, was big enough to put a smile on the eight-year-old’s face. Photo by Joseph Gresser

by Paul Lefebvre

copyright the Chronicle 11-13-2013

Why do deer hunters enjoy less success in the Northeast Kingdom than they do elsewhere?

The 2013 deer rifle season opens Saturday, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife is projecting a harvest similar to 2012 when rifle hunters took 6,159 buck over the 16-day season.

Adam Murkowski, the department’s top deer biologist, said he expects that 16 percent of the state’s deer population will be harvested.  He estimated the herd’s present population at roughly 130,000, and noted that the harvest rate has been stable for the last few years.

He said back-to-back mild winter and an abundant mast crop has improved the herd’s size and health, pushing up density in some counties to the point where deer are regarded as a nuisance.

But not in the Northeast Kingdom.

“That’s a different type of hunting experience,” he said, speaking of an area in the state that has the lowest deer density per square mile.

Not only are the deer fewer but they also tend to be older and heavier.  And it’s the age of the deer that suggest that deer are not being hunted as aggressively as they are in other parts of the state.

When a seven-year-old buck shows up at the weigh-in station, biologists attribute his senior age to a lack of hunting pressure.  Or as Mr. Murkowski points out, “Not a lot of hunters have been pursuing that deer.”

During last year’s rifle season, Rutland County led the state’s buck harvest with 783; followed by Franklin County where hunters shot 726 buck.

In the Northeast Kingdom, Orleans County reported a harvest of 517, up considerably from the 346 buck taken in Caledonia County.  The hot towns in Orleans County were Derby, Charleston, Irasburg, Brownington and Troy.

Only 176 buck were taken in Essex County last year.  Concord, Brighton, and Norton were among the towns with the highest tally, according to a harvest report published by the department.

This year the department estimates that between 50,000 and 60,000 deer hunters will take to the woods or fields come Saturday morning.

A spokesman for the department said in a recent interview that sales of hunting licenses were holding steady, but the department may be having second thoughts when it comes to giving deals to both newborns and people who have reached 65.

Presently, a permanent hunting lifetime license for a resident under one year old can be purchased for six times the current adult price.  According to the department’s webpage that purchase in 2013 would be $132.  Presently, a senior citizen who has reached the age of 65 can purchase a lifetime hunting license for $50.

But spokesman Tom Rogers said those deals might be costing the department money.  He said that when the policy went into effect for newborns, the department believed it would be making money if the child turned out to be a non-hunter.

But it now appears that people who buy a permanent license for their child are usually avid hunters who pass their interest in the sport down to their children.  If that happens, Mr. Rogers said, the department loses money.

Also under review is the practice of selling 65-year-old people a permanent hunting license for $50.  Mr. Rogers said Vermont has been looking at the policy for seniors in New Hampshire.  The granite state has raised the age to 68 since life expectancy is increasing.

Vermont, meanwhile, has decided to adopt a wait-and-see policy.

contact Paul Lefebvre at paul@bartonchronicle.com

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