The climb up that steep ridge is tough enough in daylight; in hours of darkness, it is downright dangerous. One slip down on that bad knee could mean the end of the deer season. But this is a place where I have killed deer and, on this morning, I take the half-hour trek, all uphill, with the hope of putting some venison in the freezer on this, the fifth day of the buck season.
I am not a trophy hunter. Like many deer hunters, I love to hunt deer, to kill a buck and then drag it home and begin the process of butchering this gift of venison.
It is one of those cold, bitter mornings, with the temperature reading 19 degrees when I first set out. Finally, I am at my place, a ground blind I built back during the October bow season. Below me the terrain drops off for about 30 yards and then flattens out in a mixture of hardwoods and softwoods. Just off to my right, the terrain drops off precipitously and nothing below is visible. But perhaps the best thing about this spot is a ground-pounded deer trail that runs just above that drop-off and then, right by my ground blind, maybe 25 yards away.
Anyway, it is just past 9 a.m. and I haven’t spotted a single deer. Then, just like that, a deer appears, from up out of the big drop-off and is coming right in my direction. It is a buck, but as luck would have it, it is carrying single spikes out of its skull. It walks uphill and passes my place not 15 yards away. With the wind in my face, all is well. The buck stops, licks something off a dead limb to my right and then slowly walks, uphill, to an unknown destination behind me.
Exciting, yes. Made my morning? Absolutely. Disappointing? Extremely. Because not too long ago, that spiker would have dropped in its tracks from one round delivered by my 30-30 Marlin. But the spiked buck moratorium, approved back in 2005, took all of those spiked bucks off the table for Vermonters who could have, truly, used that venison.
Anyway, that morning in the deer woods came back to me the other day after the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board proposed a list of what could be described as the most sweeping changes in Vermont deer hunting in the past 50 years.
Under the “Rule Change Proposal,” introduced by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department after more than four years of study and preparation, a one-buck rule would be in place for all but young hunters. The other major change would open 11 of 21 wildlife management areas to all legal bucks, including spiked bucks.
Other changes, and these are also significant, include: an archery season that would make hunting with crossbows legal for all bow hunters (currently only hunters over the age of 50 or those with a disability can hunt with a crossbow); bow hunters could legally take a spiked buck during the archery season; a four-day antlerless season would be held Oct. 29-Nov. 1; a “novice” hunt would run concurrently with the annual Youth Hunt, to introduce new hunters to deer hunting; and an early-season bow hunt would be held for specified, high populations of antlerless deer, where multiple tags would be issued.
The new rules, if approved by the 14-member Fish & Wildlife Board, would be in place for the 2020 deer seasons.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department should be applauded for these efforts, which could increase hunting interest in the future, when hunter numbers are currently dropping off, every year, by a drastic measure.
Deer hearings set
Meanwhile, Fish & Wildlife has scheduled a series of six deer hearings in March and April. These meetings, listed below, will very likely bring high attendance and perhaps some positive and negative responses by Vermont deer hunters. We shall see.
The hearings, scheduled to be held from 6:30 to 9 p.m., will be held:
March 25, Rutland High School, 22 Stratton Road in Rutland.
March 27, Montpelier High School, 5 High School Drive, Montpelier.
March 28, St. Albans Town Education Center, 169 So. Main St., St. Albans.
April 1, Mount Anthony Union High School, 301 Park St., Bennington.
April 2, Lake Region Union High School, 317 Lake Region Road, Orleans.
April 4, Riverside Middle School, 13 Fairground Road, Springfield.
For those who support these proposals, as well as those who are opposed, this is the time to show up at the hearings and let your voices be heard.
Contact Dennis Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org