Rifle season: Mild winters may lead to higher success rate


Makenzie Smith, 10, of Irasburg shot her first buck, an eight-pointer weighing 164 pounds, during Youth Weekend — in her secret spot!  Photo courtesy of her very proud Grampa Brent Shafer

Makenzie Smith, 10, of Irasburg shot her first buck, an eight-pointer weighing 164 pounds, during Youth Weekend — in her secret spot! Photo courtesy of her very proud Grampa Brent Shafer

copyright the Chronicle November 12, 2014

by Paul Lefebvre

Between sunrise on Saturday, opening day of rifle season on deer, and closing day at sunset on November 30, hunters will lose roughly 30 minutes of hunting time.

That’s because they can hunt deer from 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset during the 16-day season.

But sunrise on November 15 comes at 6:45, or 19 minutes earlier than it does on Sunday, November 30 — the last day in the season.

A comparable loss in time occurs at sunset. On Saturday the sun will set at 4:21 compared to 4:10 on the last day of month. Added together and that’s a loss of 30 minutes in real time.

Will it make any difference in hunters’ success rate? Probably not.

Continue reading


Rifle season for white-tailed deer opens November 16

deer menard web

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. Continue reading


Hunters skeptical of state deer count

deer picby Paul Lefebvre

LYNDON — A deer hearing at Lyndon State College last week may have been lightly attended, but it still attracted hunters willing to cross knives with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“I think the deer herd has plummeted since the department took over the herd,” said Rodney Elmer from Northfield.

He said the Vermont herd, estimated at 130,000, would do better if biologists relied more on Mother Nature.

A hunter from St. Johnsbury aired his disbelief over estimates from department biologists that indicate the deer herd is healthy and growing.

“I seriously question where those statistics are coming from,” he said, adding that he has been seeing fewer deer.

He said he hunted every day of rifle season last year and saw 17 doe and only one buck.

Perhaps he would have enjoyed more success if he had hunted in Orleans County.

Recently, the department published its deer harvest report for 2012, showing that Orleans County was the hottest of spots among the three counties in the Northeast Kingdom.

Hunters there last year took a total of 1,151 deer over the course of four seasons involving archery, black powder, rifle and the special youth weekend hunt.  That total far exceeded the 819 deer harvested in Caledonia County or the 231 that were taken in Essex County.

Statewide, the largest harvest of 2012 occurred in Franklin County, where just under 2,000 deer were taken.

The department’s deer project leader, Adam Murkowski, told only a dozen or so hunters last Wednesday night that the deer herd constitutes a robust population.  He attributed the herd’s growth to back-to-back mild winters and a management plan intent on keeping the numbers of Vermont deer in balance with the habitat that supports them.

He said Vermont’s deer population has a fluctuating history, with numbers soaring when the winters are mild and plummeting when they are severe.  Using a PowerPoint presentation of graphs and statistics, he showed how the harvest of bucks has stabilized since 2006.

Antlerless permits given out on the basis of deer density in any given zone, and the youth deer season weekend, were among the management tools he credited with bringing about that desired end.

Still unknown are the effects global warming will have on the herd.  Warmer winters suggest that the herd’s population is likely to grow.  But if the herd gets larger, will the state have the habitat to support it?

The ten-year West Mountain Wildlife Management plan is coming up for its renewal.  Public hearings will be held on June 11 in Brighton and June 13 in Lyndon to review how the state has been managing the 22,000 acres that were acquired, mainly through the Champion Lands deal of 1991.

Mark Scott, the department’s director of wildlife, told hunters last week the department is counting on public involvement to both preserve and improve wildlife habitat.

The habitat statewide is changing, and Mr. Murkowski noted the pressure is on to keep harvest levels stable while maintaining a healthy herd.

Among the hunters present, Mr. Elmer expressed fears that the big deeryards that were crucial to the herd’s survival are disappearing.  He attributed part of the decline to the way the forest is being managed, opining that hardwood is pushing out the cedar and spruce stands that deer need to survive.

“We want what’s right for the land and what’s right for the deer,” he said.  “If we try to grow a bigger herd in the Northeast Kingdom and the land won’t support it, that’s a bad move.”

The hearing last week was the fourth in a series held by the department on the status of the Vermont deer herd.  The fifth and final one will be held on June 5 in Manchester.

contact Paul Lefebvre at [email protected]