Jensen Afield

An young antlerless deer feeds along a hillside in Castleton. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department has introduced a series of proposals that would help Fish & Wildlife reach its goal of decreasing the number of antlerless deer in the state.

A series of six deer meetings, called to gather input on several far-reaching deer hunting proposals, begins on March 25 in Rutland.

These deer meetings will give hunters and non-hunters the opportunity to voice their favor, or disfavor, for these proposals. It is fair to say that the hearings should generate a good deal of participation.

Five more meetings will be held in locations around the state up until April 4 in Springfield. The other hearings will be held in Montpelier on March 27, St. Albans on March 28, Bennington on April 1 and Orleans on April 2.

Here is a breakdown of the proposals, their chances to become law, and why I believe they should, or should not, become legal:

— The statewide one-buck law. Some folks will complain about this one, particularly the really talented hunters who shot the legal limit of two bucks in 2018. My guess is this plan will go through. On a personal level, it hardly matters to me because, while I have had success taking bucks during both the October muzzleloader season and the November rifle season in New York, I consider myself fortunate if I only get the opportunity to see a buck during the archery, rifle and muzzleloader seasons in our gorgeous state, never mind shoot one.

— Lifting the spiked buck ban in 11 of 21 wildlife management areas (WMAs), mostly in the Northeast Kingdom and along the spine of the Green Mountains. This one will likely pass because most of the big supporters of antler restrictions don’t have camps and lots of property (as they do in the spike-ban WMAs) to go along with it in these areas. Being the meat-hunter that I am — and proud of it, by the way — it would have been far better if they opened the entire state to legal hunting of spiked bucks. Furthermore, the spiked-buck ban should never have been put in place back in 2005.

— Opening the archery season to crossbows. This has been an ugly, ongoing story in New York, where the majority of traditional bow hunters have vehemently opposed the use of crossbows. Most of their arguments are lame because of the killing capacity of their compound bows. I am over age 65 and have hunted with a crossbow for four years. My guess is that this one will probably become law, but I could be wrong.

— Bow hunters getting the green light to shoot spiked bucks during the archery season. This one might get through, but, again, a big outcry by the anti-spike-horn rifle hunters could put the kibosh on it. Personally, I think a spike-horn ban during the bow season is ridiculous.

— Opening a four-day muzzleloader season late in October. This proposal has come up before, but Vermont Fish & Wildlife didn’t have the courage to see it through, despite the fact that biologists maintained that it would help to decrease the number of antlerless deer in the state. The doe-killing opponents, still living in the Stone Age, have opposed this one for reasons that will never make sense. I think it has a fair chance of becoming law.

— A “novice” hunt that would run during the two-day Youth Hunt. I don’t care for this idea because it might encourage some of the lawbreaking that’s suspected during the Youth Hunt, when lawbreaking dads or mentors take a kid out, shoot the deer and then claim the youth got his or her deer. (I should make it clear here that despite the outlaws who do break the law, I fully support the Youth Hunt and believe Fish & Wildlife has done a great service in getting kids interested in hunting.)

— A proposal to open an early-season bow hunt where deer populations are way out of hand. This proposal certainly makes sense and will probably be approved.

After the hearings, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board will ultimately decide, following three votes, the fate of all the proposals.

So here’s the bottom line: If you are happy with the way Fish & Wildlife is currently running its deer hunting plan, or if you would like to see some fundamental changes in how we hunt deer in Vermont, make it a point to show up and voice your opinion.

Contact Dennis Jensen at d.jensen62@yahoo.com

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