Adam Murkowski, the deer project leader for Vermont Fish & Wildlife, poses with one of the bucks he took this season in his native Wisconsin.While the final figures are still not known, the 2012 buck kill is running about average for the kill numbers over the past three years.
As of Dec. 4, the latest figures released by the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, 4,897 bucks have been brought into checking stations around the state.
Meanwhile, the average kill for the previous three years over the same time period is 4,867 antlered deer.
Adam Murkowski, the deer project leader for Fish & Wildlife, said that he is encouraged by the number thus far. And Murkowski stressed that many reports are still due from checking stations.
“This year, compared to last year, the numbers are up,” he said. “These are really preliminary numbers. After the muzzleloader season, we’ll have a much better handle as they continue to come in from every check station.”
This is Murkowski’s first buck season with the department after taking the position earlier this year as the top deer biologist in the state.
Murkowski said that, from what he has seen and from what he has heard, Vermont hunters seem to be satisfied with the results of the four 2012 deer seasons.
“Overall, everybody, from archers and young kids and the rifle hunters, everybody seems to be seeing deer,” he said. “The general consensus is that people are seeing more deer and are harvesting bigger and more healthy bucks.”
The weather for hunting deer during the 16-day firearms buck season was also favorable, Murkowski said.
“People got to sit a little longer and enjoy it,” he said.
While Murkowski, an avid deer hunter, didn’t get to hunt much in Vermont, he did manage to take three bucks in his native state of Wisconsin.
“I went back home, with my family,” he said. “We had a really good year. I got a five-pointer, a nub-horn (button buck) and what should have been a 4-by-4, but every tine on his left side was broken off, with just the main beam showing.”
Vermont has an antler restriction rule, which forbids hunters - the exception being the youth deer weekend - from taking spiked bucks. The spike horn rule has been in effect since 2005 and Murkowski said he believes it has done what it was proposed to do.
“There’s no doubt the spike horn ban is working,” he said. “We know it protects 50 percent of the yearling age class. And we know from the rifle harvest data that the composition of the harvest has been shifting increasingly up to the 2- and 3-year-old bucks.”
Since the spike horn ban, the average buck kill has been about 40 percent for yearlings (1-year-old bucks), 35 percent for 2-year-old bucks and 25 percent for bucks 3 years and older, Murkowski said.
“We see that body weights continue to go up and we know from talking to hunters that the number of antler points are going up. We know from talking to hunters at checking stations that they are seeing more bucks and seeing older bucks,” he said.
Murkowski said that he believes that the Vermont deer population is in very good shape.
“Vermont has some stark contrasts, in terms of habitat. There’s farm country and big woods and a big difference in deer density. But overall the deer herd is very healthy,” he said.
Fish & Wildlife understands that the deer herd is not “evenly distributed throughout the landscape,” Murkowski said “There are places where we would like to see deer numbers increase.”
Meanwhile, deer hunters would be wise to consult the annual deer harvest report, compiled by Fish & Wildlife biologists in time for the annual deer meetings held each winter, Murkowski said.
“We put a lot of effort into analyzing that stuff,” he said. “Hunters can analyze that information and use it to help make informed harvest decisions when they are out hunting.”
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