MONTPELIER — With an unusual amount of changes having been made to Vermont’s deer hunting rules all at once, the state has launched a website devoted to helping hunters keep track of them.
Visit bit.ly/0917Deer to find the site. It features links to a series of YouTube videos created by Fish & Wildlife Department personnel talking about new bag limits and seasons, has a list of frequently asked questions and their answers, as well as other calendars and documents.
Fish & Wildlife Deer Project Leader, Nick Fortin, said the department anticipated many questions about the new slate of rule changes and had planned to create this website, which launched within the past few days.
“Obviously, everyone has different thoughts on what’s best and worst,” said Fortin. “The one buck limit has been one of the more controversial ones, certainly for the more avid hunters who hunt in multiple seasons. You used to be able to shoot a buck in archery season and still rifle hunt.”
For those hunters who only participate in the rifle season, the most popular deer-hunting season there is Vermont, the changes won’t be that noticeable, except for the antler-size restriction, said Fortin, and that depends on where one is hunting in the state.
Prior to 2020, deer hunters could harvest multiple bucks across the archery, muzzleloader and rifle seasons. Now, only one deer can be a buck, but one can’t shoot antlerless deer in the rifle season, so taking a buck in the early archery season means no hunting during the rifle season.
“That one has been contentious, but people understand it,” said Fortin. “The ones more confusing to people seem to be the early antlerless muzzleloader season and the extension of archery season and its overlapping with other seasons.”
Fortin said it’s expected that these rules will be in place for the next five years. They’re geared towards managing the number of deer on the landscape and improving opportunities for hunters. It should also lead to more older, larger bucks and should work the same in all areas of the state. He said it takes a period of years to tell what impact rules like these are having, which also plays into logic behind making several changes at the same time.
“I think the history of a lot of Vermont’s changes to the deer season has been mostly a piecemeal approach, which a lot of times it can be difficult to make changes, especially for anything that involves hunting because any small change to make has the potential to affect other areas,” said Adam Miller, director of the department’s Wildlife Management Program on Thursday.
“Although there are a lot of changes that are happening all at once, it’s the best way we can help make manageable, meaningful changes to provide quality hunting opportunities while also creating a more effective system where we can better manage Vermont’s deer population.”
Fortin noted that many people were also wondering how deer and other large game they harvest will be reported to the state. He said online reporting was allowed during the spring turkey season, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and leading many to wonder if online reporting would be for deer and bear. He said the state is prepared to switch to an online reporting system in the fall if need be, but for now, nothing has changed from years past.