This page is a summary of the frequently asked questions about the proposed changes to Vermont's deer management. It includes:
Why is the department proposing to make sweeping changes to deer hunting?
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. In order 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 rules) 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.
What are the goals of the proposed changes?
The proposed changes are intended to provide hunters with additional opportunities to hunt antlerless deer to maintain a stable and healthy herd. They are also designed to more effectively manage for larger-bodied, bigger-antlered bucks throughout Vermont without being unnecessarily restrictive. And they are intended to give Vermonters additional opportunities to become hunters and to remain hunters.
What went in to making the proposed changes?
In 2013 the department embarked on a comprehensive review of all Vermont deer hunting regulations and potential hunting opportunities. This evaluation was a means to assess how hunting regulations can best meet the desires of hunters and the general public, while simultaneously ensuring that the department can achieve deer management objectives. The Department conducted several surveys and public involvement activities, evaluated the effects of the antler restriction on buck age structure and antler development, and assessed the effects of regulation changes passed in 2015. The proposed changes reflect the results of this evaluation as well as evolving deer management and hunter recruitment and retention concerns.
Why is the state proposing a one buck annual limit?
The one buck annual limit will allow the state to reduce the buck harvest rate and promote more older bucks. Each year, about 500 hunters manage to harvest two bucks. More importantly, with a one buck limit many hunters will pass on opportunities to harvest their first buck because they don’t want to be done buck hunting. In some WMUs this reduced buck harvest will eliminate the need for an antler restriction, and in other areas it will allow for further increases in the number of older bucks.
The one buck annual limit also encourages hunters to harvest antlerless deer instead of bucks. To effectively manage deer numbers in the future, with fewer hunters, it will be necessary to shift some of our hunting pressure from bucks to antlerless deer.
Why move to a regional antler point restriction?
The regional antler point restriction (APR) reflects regional differences in deer density, hunting pressure, habitat, winter severity, and so on. In areas of the state with many deer and higher hunting pressure, an APR ensures more bucks survive to older ages. In regions with fewer deer, lower hunting pressure, and large blocks of forest, many bucks escape hunters anyway and an APR is unnecessary. Having no APR in these areas allows hunters the opportunity to take what may be the only buck they see, and the one buck limit ensures that bucks still have some protection.
Why extend the archery season?
By creating a longer archery season, the state provides hunters additional opportunity to harvest antlerless deer. More antlerless deer simply need to be harvested in some areas to keep deer numbers in balance with their habitat. Archery hunters are also impacted by the one buck annual limit, as they would be giving up their opportunity to rifle hunt if they harvest a buck during archery season.
Can I hunt for a legal buck with archery equipment during the rifle season?
No changes here. Although the archery season would be closed, as it is now, during the rifle season, you would still be able to hunt for a legal buck during the rifle season using your archery equipment. You just need to follow rifle season rules and use your rifle season buck tag.
What are expanded archery zones and where are they?
Expanded archery zones are designated areas where the archery season will begin September 15th, two weeks before regular archery season. Only antlerless deer could be harvested until the regular archery season starts on October 1st. No zones are being proposed at this time, but they will generally be in heavily developed urban and suburban areas.
Why does Vermont need expanded archery zones?
The expanded archery zones will encourage bow hunters to take more antlerless deer in areas with many deer-human conflicts and where firearm hunting is ineffective at controlling deer numbers. This provides a way of addressing pockets of high deer density without unnecessarily impacting nearby rural areas with lower deer densities.
Why allow crossbows for all ages?
Many hunters are physically unable to use a compound bow. By allowing broad access to crossbows, the state may increase recruitment of new archery hunters and encourage participation among existing hunters who would like to switch to a crossbow.
What is the proposed Antlerless Season, when is it, and what are the restrictions?
The proposed antlerless season will be four days long, run Thursday through Sunday, and take place 2 weeks before rifle season. It will help achieve antlerless harvest objectives and will be limited to muzzleloader hunters with a lottery antlerless permit.
What is the proposed Novice Season and why is it being considered?
The proposed Novice Season will allow new adult hunters to hunt during youth season for one year. It is expected to attract 200 to 300 new hunters each year and to have no impact on the deer harvest.
What restrictions will Novice Hunters have?
Novice hunters will be required to have a mentor and landowner permission, similar to youth, during the Novice Season.
Why move Youth Season to late October?
By moving youth season two weeks earlier, before the new antlerless season, it will continue to provide youths the first opportunity to harvest deer with a firearm. The earlier timing also provides more favorable weather conditions and, being before the shift to Eastern Standard Time, provides more evening hours for youth to hunt.
Why does the department want to harvest more antlerless deer?
Some parts of Vermont currently have more deer than the habitat can support. The proposed changes are designed to harvest more antlerless deer in these areas when it’s necessary to reduce or stabilize the deer population. The department will still control the total antlerless harvest in each wildlife management unit by limiting the number of lottery antlerless permits available each year. In many areas, the total antlerless harvest will be similar to current levels. However, in areas with too many deer, the proposed changes will allow for more antlerless deer to be harvested.
If you have additional questions or would like to comment on the proposed changes to deer seasons, please send them to ANR.FWPublicComment@vermont.gov
If you would like to attend a public meeting, see White-tailed Deer Hearings for one near you.