Hunter numbers in Vermont are declining and the average age of hunters is getting older. At the same time deer are becoming more abundant in some parts of the state as winters become shorter and milder. To keep deer numbers at a level that Vermont’s habitat can support, more does will need to be harvested in some regions. Additionally, the current antler point restriction (spikehorn rule) may be having unintended effects on the state’s deer and may not be the most effective way to manage for older bucks in some regions.
The Fish & Wildlife Department has proposed significant changes to Vermont’s deer hunting regulations to the Fish & Wildlife Board to address these issues. The department spent several years conducting surveys, holding public meetings to gather input on existing regulations from hunters, and analyzing data from the antler point restriction and its effect on antler development in Vermont’s deer.
The proposed changes are intended to provide hunters with additional opportunities to hunt antlerless deer to maintain a stable and healthy herd. They continue to manage for older, larger-antlered bucks, but in a way that better reflects regional differences and minimizes potential negative effects. And they are intended to encourage Vermonters to become hunters and to remain hunters.
Buck Age Structure Management
1. One Buck Annual Limit
- Reduces buck harvest rate
- Maintains buck age structure in some WMUs without the need for an antler restriction
2. Regional Antler Point Restriction | View Map
- Allows management approach to reflect regional differences in deer density, hunting pressure, habitat, winter severity, etc.
3. Extend Archery Season | View Calendar
- October 1 through December 15, except closed during rifle season
- Archery hunters are impacted by the one buck limit
- Provides additional opportunity to harvest antlerless deer
4. Establish Expanded Archery Zones
- Located in developed areas or pockets of high deer density
- Season starts September 15
- Helps address areas with many deer-human conflicts
5. Allow Crossbows for All Ages
- May increase recruitment of archery hunters
- Increases participation among existing hunters
6. Establish an Antlerless Season | View Calendar
- Four days, Thursday-Sunday, two weeks before rifle season
- Limited to muzzleloader hunters with a lottery antlerless permit
- Helps achieve antlerless harvest objectives
7. Establish a Novice Weekend | View Calendar
- Allows new adult hunters to hunt during youth season for their first year
- Expect 200-250 hunters each year and no impact on the deer harvest
8. Move Youth Season to late October | View Calendar
- Still provides youths the first opportunity with a firearm
- Provides more favorable weather conditions
9. Change the Annual Bag Limit
- Annual limit of four deer, one of which can be a legal buck