KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- The mild winter should mean plenty of deer in the woods for hunters Saturday when the season begins, say state biologists.
Adam Murkowski, deer biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Department, said the warm winter and early spring led to ideal fawning conditions for the state's whitetail deer population. He said fawns do much of their growing during spring, and with better access to food and less stress from cold and snow, their weights should be up this fall.
"Everything lined up good for the deer this year," said Murkowski.
He said the state bases its predictions on data mainly gathered by hunters when they have their kills weighed in at check stations. During the Youth Hunting Weekend, when young people can take deer of any size and sex for free, the state sets up special biological check stations where more data than average is gathered on deer weighed there. Murkowski said this allows biologists to know more about the population's health in addition to its size.
Murkowski said data is also collected from deer over the spring and summer months, usually as roadkill. He said there have been fewer deer killed on the roads this year, which supports the prediction for a good deer harvest this hunting season. Murkowski said deer don't have to move around as much to find food, so they're not crossing the roads and highways as often, although people have been seeing them more.
"From what I'm hearing from people across the state is people are seeing a lot more deer sign," Murkowski said. "People are excited."
This weekend marks the beginning of the first archery deer season which will run until Oct. 28. The second archery deer season goes from Dec. 1 to Dec. 9. Muzzleloader season overlaps the second archery season.
The youth deer hunting weekend is the Saturday and Sunday before the regular rifle season, which runs from Nov. 10 to Nov. 25. During the youth weekend those 15 and under who have purchased a regular Vermont hunting license can hunt in the company of an unarmed adult who also holds a valid license.
A hunter can take up to three deer in a calendar year and only two can be "legal bucks," but only one buck can be taken in each of the seasons, archery, youth weekend, November rifle season and muzzleloader season. A legal buck is a deer with at least one antler having two or more points one inch long or longer.
A regular hunting license which comes with a tag for the November deer rifle season costs $22 for a resident and $100 for nonresidents. Hunters under 18 can get a license for $8 and $25 if they are not residents. Add-on archery tags can be bought for $20 for residents, $35 for nonresidents. Nonresidents can buy an archery only tag for $75.
Muzzleloader licenses are $20 for residents and for $40 for nonresidents. A regular license is needed to buy one.
Licenses can be bought in numerous places statewide or through the department's Website www.vtfishandwildlife.com.