Sports

Vermont hunters had a big year

LINCOLN’S NICK MAYER brought down this 190-pound, 14-point buck this fall, one of many trophies deer hunters took as 2020 proved to be a banner year for deer hunting in Addison County. Records were set for overall kill, rifle season take, and buck weight for rifle season.

MONTPELIER — Final statewide deer harvest numbers will not be available until March, but the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department announced last week the final tally will be around 18,000 deer, the second highest total since 2000. Those deer will provide approximately 3.6 million servings of venison, officials said.
The archery season harvest, which will be close to 5,800 deer, will be a new all-time record for that season, according to Fish & Wildlife officials.
They attributed the uptick to several changes to archery hunting regulations that took effect in 2020. Those included establishing a longer season, allowing the use of crossbows, and increased bag limit for archery hunters. 
Officials also acknowledged some of the increase was likely due to a spike in participation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hunters weren’t quite as successful statewide during the regular rifle and muzzleloader seasons, but final harvest numbers for those seasons will be close to or above average for the past 10 years, they said.
Nick Fortin, the department’s deer project leader, cited challenging conditions statewide during rifle season and the December muzzleloader/archery season.
“Fewer bucks were harvested than in the previous four years, but the final number will be near or above the 10-year average of 8,857,” Fortin said. “Weather conditions, food availability, and possibly other factors limited deer movement in November and December and made it difficult for hunters to locate deer.  The new one-buck annual limit likely also contributed to the lower buck harvest.”
Addison County proved to be an exception to the statewide numbers, with record kills recorded by the Addison Independent for overall numbers for all seasons (1,745) and rifle season (647).
Fortin told the Independent favorable farmland habitat along Lake Champlain was a major factor in county hunters’ success this year and in recent years.
Fortin also expects good numbers in Grand Isle, Chittenden and Franklin counties when the 2020 White-tailed Deer Harvest Report with the final results is released on Fish & Wildlife’s website in early March. 
Beginning in late March, department biologists will hold informational hearings to share biological information and listen to any information people wish to share.
The primary goal of Vermont’s deer management strategy is to keep the deer herd stable, healthy and in balance with available habitat, according to Fortin. 
“Maintaining an appropriate number of deer on the landscape ensures deer and the habitats that support them remain in good condition and productive,” he said.

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