Jensen Afield: Muzzleloader permits are up in 2014
More than 17,000 permits will be issued for the Dec. 6-14 muzzleloader season in Vermont.
Deer hunters who enjoy carrying a muzzleloader into the woods each December will have a good crack at receiving an antlerless permit this year.
The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board has approved the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department’s proposal to issue 17,050 permits for the Dec. 6-14 muzzleloader season.
The permits will be distributed in 13 of Vermont’s 20 wildlife management units.
Last year, hunters tagged 2,452 deer during the December muzzleloader season. A total of 470 of those animals were legal, antlered bucks. The remainder, a total of 1,982 deer, were taken by hunters with antlerless permits.
Fish & Wildlife makes its recommendations to the board based on population growth estimates, biological data, deer sighting rates reported by hunters and winter severity data, as well as input from game wardens, foresters and the public.
Fish & Wildlife issued 14,400 antlerless permits for the nine-day muzzleloader season in 2013.
Adam Murkowski, the deer team leader for Fish & Wildlife, said in an interview that he anticipates growth in the deer herd this year and said that factor, as well as others, justify an increase in permits for 2014.
“The consecutive mild winters of 2012 and 2013 and a moderate winter in 2014 combined with past antlerless harvests should result in continued herd growth in 2014,” he said. “We expect the statewide deer population to be at about 135,000 prior to the start of the 2014 deer seasons.”
In addition, Murkowski said deer hunters should be aware of a number of changes in Vermont’s wildlife management units, or WMUs.
WMUs K1 and K2 have been merged into one unit now known as WMU K, Murkowski said.
“We want to make sure hunters are applying for permits in places they wish to hunt,” he said. “If you are successful, be sure that permit is for the right area. Hunters should also be aware of the changes when reporting a harvest.”
Asked why certain WMUs were merged, Murkowski said, “We felt doing so would enhance our ability to manage deer in that area.”
John Hall, a spokesman for Fish & Wildlife, said that the department was concerned about the number of landowners who apply for landowner antlerless permits and who also post their land, which is illegal under Vermont law.
Landowners with more than 25 acres of land who do not post their land are eligible for antlerless deer permits.
For the second straight year, Fish & Wildlife will list the winners of regular antlerless permits, as well as another listing of permit-winners in the landowner category, Hall said.
Hall maintains that landowners who post their land and yet apply for antlerless permits sometimes do so unknowingly.
“The Fish & Wildlife Board expressed concern last fall that the department needs to help educating landowners with regard to the proper application process,” he said. “In other words, you can’t be posting your property against hunting and then apply for a permit.”
Fish & Wildlife encourages hunters to use the online application for antlerless permits. Applications can also be mailed in. The deadline is Aug. 15.
Vermont has four deer seasons — the archery season runs Oct. 4-26, the annual youth hunt is Nov. 8-9, the firearms season is Nov. 15-30 and the muzzleloader season is held Dec. 6-14.
Murkowski said all four hunting seasons look promising.
“We anticipate that hunters are going to have a very good deer season,” he said. “We anticipate growth of the deer herd in many areas of the state and that has resulted in additional antlerless opportunities.”
Last year, hunters tagged 14,107 deer over those four seasons. Murkowski said he expects the deer kill to increase in 2014.
“Hunters should be optimistic,” he said. “We are projecting a growth in the harvest for all seasons.”