Vermont mulls pulling back crossbow restrictions for deer

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BENNINGTON >> The state may allow the use of crossbows to hunt deer whenever a normal bow and arrow would be permitted.

Right now one needs a special disability permit to use a crossbow in place of a bow, but at its Jan. 21 meeting the Fish and Wildlife Board voted to legalize the use of crossbows "whenever a regular bow and arrow could be used," according to a release from the Fish and Wildlife Department.

Before the rule can take effect, the board must vote on it two more times. In between those votes, more meetings and public hearings must be held.

Deer biologist Adam Murkowski said the department made the recommendation to the board to allow anyone over 50 to use a crossbow, as that's the age where participation in the archery deer seasons tends to decline. The board, he said, has opted to open full liberalization of crossbow use up for discussion.

He said surveys of hunters show they would generally supporting allowing crossbows for all, but only if other rules were put in place at the same time. Without those rule changes, there is less support for the crossbows.

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Murkowski said the concern over crossbows is how it would affect the number of deer harvested. He said currently those who are eligible for a crossbow permit rarely take advantage of it, but more might if restrictions were eased. In states that have allowed crossbow use, there has been a noticeable uptick in deer harvested.

Crossbows were not the only measures the board is considering.

Also being talked about is the banning of urine-based lures, the intent being to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease to Vermont's wild herd.

"Many of the chronic wasting disease outbreaks in other states have started in captive deer facilities exactly like the ones used to produce commercial deer urine lures," said Murkowski in a release. "Because CWD can be spread through deer urine, the Fish & Wildlife Board and the department are working to protect Vermont's deer herd from this potentially devastating disease by prohibiting the use of natural deer urine lures in Vermont."

Also, under the new proposed rules, dates for the first part of the archery season would go from the fourth Saturday in September to the fourth Wednesday in October. The second part would remain the same. Youth deer season and the rifle and muzzleloader seasons would not change.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567, Ext. 115.


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