Friday, October 10
BENNINGTON — Since the archery deer hunting season began on Oct. 4, 106 deer have been harvested in Vermont, according to Debby Wood, a district clerk for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Wood said the latest figures were from Wednesday, and while checking stations are supposed to file reports every week, some wait until the end of the season. She said 21 deer had been reported taken in Bennington County, which has 10 checking stations.

Last year, Wood said 48 deer were reported in the first week of the season, four of them coming from Bennington County.

"The hunters, I think, are having a pretty good season so far," Charles Wells, owner of the Wells Gun Shop in Bennington, said. Wells reported that Ray Ribideau of Pownal had so far bagged the largest buck, a 145-pound five-pointer.

Todd Rogers of Bennington shot an eight-point buck weighing 138 pounds.

Rogers, 14, said he got his buck in the early morning. He said he was the first in his family to take a deer with a bow, and did it while sitting with his father, Todd Sr., in a tree stand in North Bennington.

He said he first saw a group of does crossing a meadow. After they passed, he and his father were about to leave when a call from the boy's uncle told them they should stay put and remain on the lookout. The uncle said he had seen another group of deer, mostly doe accompanied by a six-point buck, headed in their direction.

Rogers said they waited and soon saw what turned out to be an eight-point buck. Rogers said he had his bow, a High Country Phantom T, at full draw for three minutes while he watched the buck come closer.

When the buck stood at 20 yards, Rogers said he fired, hitting the buck as it was facing him and turning its head. He said the deer fled across the meadow but fell down before reaching the trees.

Rogers said he preferred bow hunting to rifle hunting. He has been hunting for three years and got a deer his last two seasons with a rifle. He said bow hunting was more exciting because the deer had to be much closer for a shot than with a rifle.

Wood said that while the reporting delays might distort the data, and it was too early to tell, it seemed as though more deer were being harvested this year. Woods said that might be because of a change in the state's bag limits.

Vermont State Game Warden Travis Buttle said deer hunters were allowed to harvest up to three deer this season, as opposed to last year's two. During the archery season, he said, a hunter could harvest two deer. One of the deer can have antlers and the other can have none, or a hunter could take two antlerless deer. A hunter cannot take two antlered deer during the archery season, Buttle said.

Hunters lacking a doe permit may take one antlered deer during gun season.

Buttle said that any deer with antlers under 3 inches was considered antlerless and that no "spike horn" deer may be taken regardless of the length of their antlers.

Shawn Haskell, Deer Team chairman for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, said it was too early in the season to tell whether or not more deer were being taken, but he guessed the number was at least comparable to previous years.

Haskell said attracting bow and muzzleloader hunters back to the sport was key to managing the deer herd. He said the number of adult female deer factored more into the health of the herd than bucks or fawns.

He said that because no antlerless deer are allowed to be taken in rifle season, it was up to the bow and muzzleloader hunters, for whom the state has been steadily increasing the number of permits sold since 2006.

"I think the rule changes will help," Haskell said, adding that in Southwestern Vermont there had been resistance to the hunting of doe and antlerless bucks. He said most of the resistance came from older hunters, whom he said remembered a time in Vermont during the 1960s and '70s when there were more deer and more open areas to see them in.

Haskell said the deer population "exploded" in 2006, following a mild winter. He said harsh winters in 2001 and 2003 had kept the population down, but it was climbing back because overall, habitat for the deer was good.

"We're just trying to get a handle on it again," Haskell said.

Contact Keith Whitcomb at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com.