Hunt ‘antlerless’ deer to control overpopulation in Vermont

Vermont plans to allow hunters to capture more antlerless deer this fall to control the state’s deer population.

White-tailed deer have increased over the years to the point where the habitat can no longer support them and their physical condition has been affected, The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department detailed in a document about the proposed rules for deer hunting this year.

Coupled with a mild winter, the service is expecting more deer this year and has successfully regulated the population by expanding the hunt to include does and young deer.

The state’s goal is to harvest 7,121 antlerless deer in 2022, which includes harvesting 3,107 antlerless deer during muzzleloading seasons this fall and winter in addition to shooting seasons. archery and hunting for young people / novices. The state plans to issue 19,400 woodfree permits this year.

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The community can learn more about the proposal and express their thoughts at hearings scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Thursday, May 12, at the offices of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department at 111 West St., Essex Junction. Or, the public can email their thoughts to [email protected] by May 14.

How and where deer are most affected by overpopulation in Vermont

The state tracks the beam diameter of yearling deer antlers, fawn weight and other physical conditions of deer that have deteriorated. The state’s conclusion is that habitat resources are being depleted and are unable to support the numbers of deer that need them.

Vermont has approximately 128,000 white-tailed deer across the state in 21 regions defined as wildlife management units (WMUs).

There are five such areas where the state believes the deer population must decline to maintain the species’ well-being, and three areas where the doe population must decline by 10 percent or more.

The state has increased the number of hunting licenses available for these three areas:

  • WMU A: The Champlain Islands include this area where there are approximately 32 deer per square mile with a target of 18. Abundant agriculture has supported the condition of deer here, but the health of the forest ecosystem is the primary concern in this region. The state hopes to reduce the number of adult females by 23%, which would be achieved by harvesting 246 of them. The state plans to issue 800 wood-free permits, an increase of 300 from last year.
  • WMU B: The Champlain Valley north of the Winooski River constitutes this region where deer condition is considered poor and where deer have had significant impacts on forest ecosystems. Overpopulation has been a concern for many years in this area where there are 22 deer per square mile where 18 seems sustainable. The state recommends a 17% reduction in the adult doe population, or about 1,137 deer. The state plans to issue 4,000 antlerless hunting permits, an increase of 500 from 2021.
  • WMU F1: The southern Champlain Valley from Burlington to Addison County was able to support a large deer population due to abundant agriculture and mild winters. Deer condition is good in this region, but forest ecosystems are having a widespread and significant impact, including some uncommon natural communities that have been impacted, according to the wildlife department. In this area there are approximately 18 deer per square mile where 15 is the recommended number. About 11% of the adult doe population could descend, which is equivalent to 329 deer. The state plans to issue 1,500 timber-free permits for this region, up 200 from last year.
A group of deer walk through a neighborhood in Williston mid-morning on January 4, 2020

Vermont’s deer hunting seasons, including archery, youth and novice, and muzzleloading, begin in October and end in December. You will find the exact dates on https://vtfishandwildlife.com/hunt/hunting-and-trapping-opportunities/white-tailed-deer.

The public can find state proposal for antlerless deer hunting this year and how to attend the public hearings from May 12 to https://vtfishandwildlife.com/public-hearings-schedule.

Contact reporter April Barton at [email protected] or 802-660-1854. Follow her on Twitter @aprildbarton.