Warm winter good for deer

T he warmest winter in more than 40 years coupled with a mild spring is expected to lead to a strong deer hunting season this fall, according to biologists in both New York and Vermont.

“It should be better than last year,” said Ed Reed, a wildlife biologist with the N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation. “The population should be growing especially after last winter.”

The traditional rifle deer hunting season is already under way in New York’s northern zone and will continue through Dec. 2. The southern zone hunting season begins on Nov. 17 and continues through Dec. 9. The muzzle-loading season will be held Dec. 3 to 9 in the northern zone and Dec. 10 to 18 in the southern zone.

Vermont’s 16-day rifle deer season begins on Saturday.

And when hunters head into the woods during the next few weeks, they should find a very healthy and stable deer population.

“Deer populations have benefited from excellent survival during the mildest winter recorded over the last four decades and good fawning conditions during the spring and summer,” said Adam Murkowski, a deer project leader with the state of Vermont, in a release.

The Vt. Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates the deer population in the state is about 125,000, about 2,000 more than last year.

Reed said New York’s population also looks larger than it was last year.

He said the number of deer in the wildlife management unit closest to Whitehall (5T) is near the objective biologists have set for the area and the management unit directly south of Whitehall (5S) in the southern portion of Washington County is above the objective.

“It looks like it’s going to be a good year,” Reed said.

If there are any concerns among hunters, it’s the relative lack of feed in the woods.

Dry conditions this summer have led to a shortage of food in the woods and has been cited by biologists as why bear sightings have increased this year.

But the shortage of food could also mean deer are moving more often. And they may also be turning to other sources for food.

“They may spend more time in the fields,” said Reed.

Although serious hunting accidents are rare, officials encourage hunters to use caution in the woods and follow several guidelines so they and others remain safe.

Hunters should remember to always treat their gun as if it were loaded and know what’s behind their target.

“We also encourage hunters to wear hunter orange. It’s not mandatory but it’s a good idea,” said Reed.

A New York big game hunting license costs $29 for residents and $140 for nonresidents. A sportsman license, which includes big- and small-game hunting privileges as well as fishing costs $47 for residents. Licenses can be purchased on DEC’s website, at your local town clerk’s office, or from most hunting stores.

Vermont’s regular hunting licenses, including a November rifle season buck tag and a bear tag, cost $100 for nonresidents, $22 for residents. Hunters under 18 years of age get a price break: $25 for nonresidents.

For more information on New York’s deer hunting season, including rules and regulation, visit www.dec.ny.gov. For more information on Vermont’s deer hunting season, visit www.vtfishandwildlife.com.

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