2016 Vermont White-Tailed Deer Harvest Report – 6 Observations

2016 VT Deer Harvest Report

I’ll admit, reading the harvest report is much more fun when I’ve contributed to the harvest statistics. Phrases like, “The overall harvest was 27% more than 2015…” are much easier to stomach if I was part of the increase. It felt like everyone had a better year than me. Cue the violin music.

That’s okay, I’m a better man for it. Let’s take a look at some of my observations of the 2016 Vermont White-Tailed Deer Harvest Report. You can thank me later for the brilliant insight.

#1 Is Calais really “God’s Country?”

Early last fall I passed through the town of Calais, VT en route to a meeting. If I wasn’t the observant type, I probably would have missed it. Not too long ago, I was surprised to learn during the course of conversation with a gentleman from Calais that the town is referred to as “God’s Country.” “Strange,” I thought to myself. “I always pictured God’s country looking a little different than Calais, VT.”

If it’s not God’s country, perhaps it’s deer country? I scoured the report for the town and discovered it ranked ninth in harvest totals out of the nineteen towns that comprise Washington County. That’s not bad, but again, I had pegged God’s country for a better ranking, like first.

Here’s a little tidbit for you – during the 2015 deer season, the oldest ever recorded buck in Vermont, an eleven-year-old, was harvested in Calais. I’ll be danged.

#2 200 Pound Bucks

In 2016, the number of 200 pound bucks on the list grew by 80 deer over the 2015 list with 161 deer weighing in over 200 pounds. According to my mathematical skills, last year the bucks on the list averaged 7.69 points. This year the average was 7.76 points per buck. What really caught my eye was the amount of four pointers on the list (my dream Vermont buck). In 2015 there was one, in 2016 there was 5. I’ll be danged.

#3 Towns with Weak Showings

This observation was a hit when I wrote about it last year. I love exposing the ineptitude of certain town’s abilities to produce even a single deer during the course of a season. Returning for a second year in a row at zero deer harvested are the towns of Burlington, Vergennes, and Winooski. Horrible, just horrible.

Let’s give credit to the town of Baltimore, though. Right here in little old Windsor country, the town of Baltimore sits just northwest of the town of Springfield and occupies very little space. In 2015, zero deer were harvested in this town, but this past year there were six! That’s a heck of an increase. The residents of Baltimore should be proud.

On the flip side, in spite of what appears to be the entire state reporting an increase in the harvest, the town of Warners Grant decided to join the list of towns that reported zero deer. I’ll be danged.

#4 Antlerless Permits

Ah yes, everyone loves a good argument about the number of antlerless permits that are approved in a given year. Each year, a certain number of does need to be removed from the landscape to prevent an over population of deer. In some areas of the state the number is very few – maybe even zero. In other areas of the state, the number is much higher.

The historical success rate of antlerless permit holders is used to help determine how many permits need to be given out once the target number of does to be harvest has been identified. Success rates are surprisingly low, ranging from a low of 10% in WMU A to a high of 29% in WMU C.

Let’s say the biologists would like to remove 100 does from a management unit and the success rate is 10% in that unit. 1000 permits would need to be given out in order to achieve the harvest goal. Simple, right?

I have heard many complain about the exorbitant amount of permits given out statewide, but many fail to take the time to understand why and just assume that because 19,000 permits are given out that 19,000 does will be harvested. Far from it. Some even enter the lottery and throw away the tag to “save a doe.” This is a flawed thinking. That just results in more permits being given out because the success rate ends up being lower while the target number of does remains the same.

Anyway, let’s see how my area of the state stacked up to the original predictions from earlier in the spring when the doe permit numbers were approved. 200 Permits were approved for unit M with the prediction that thirty does would be harvested. The hunt resulted in thirty-five does harvested. 1200 permits were approved for Unit O with a harvest of 210 does predicted. The final tally came in at 179. And last but not least, in Unit Q, 250 permits were allocated with thirty-five does predicted to be harvested. Twenty-seven does ended up in freezers. Not too bad! I should have been able to add to the final tally in unit O but came up short. I’ll be danged.

#5 Deer Sightings

Deer sightings were up statewide, but I was not personally responsible for helping with that statistic either. Maybe I should take my wife’s advice when she tells me to hunt “where there are actually deer.” Her words are painful.

Hunters reported seeing 2.6 deer per 10 hours of hunting. Okay, so Vermont is not the Midwest, or the south, or the west, or even just a little bit south. It’s Vermont, and the hunting is tough. The good news is that number was 44% higher than the previous year. Buck sightings were up too. It’s amazing what kind of an impact the easiest winter on record since 1970 will do for the deer herd. It’s amazing what it did for my emotional state of mind as well. Could we have another, please?

I saw a lot of bucks this year too – pictures of them on Facebook, trail camera pictures, etc. Maybe in 2017 I’ll see one on the hoof.

#6 One Liners

I’ll end with a few statements that stuck out to me.

“Under-harvest is more dangerous than over-harvest because habitats damaged by over abundant deer take longer to recover than reduced deer numbers.”

“Hunters play a critical role in the management of deer in Vermont.” (You all should be proud!)

“Hunters have a responsibility to contribute to the sound management of these species, yet only 13% of rifle season hunter effort surveys were returned in 2016.”

“…the department remains concerned that the antler restriction may be resulting in reduced antler size in both yearling and older bucks.”  

I had more observations but had to limit myself to six because I go to bed early and ran out of time. I’d like to encourage you to read the report if you haven’t already, especially if you plan to attend one of the five deer hearings that are scheduled. You can read it here:  2016 Vermont White-Tailed Deer Harvest Report

Speaking of the meetings, there are five scheduled around different parts of the state – three in the coming week and two more in May. I’m planning to attend the meetings in Brattleboro, Island Pond, and Randolph. I hope to see you there. 

2016 Vermont White-Tailed Deer Harvest Report - 6 Observations 1If I’ve done nothing more than inspire you to read the harvest report, at least I’ll feel like I’ve accomplished something. 

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kevin lawrence
kevin lawrence
7 years ago

Hey, lets come up with a new data set that compares attitudes towards deer permit numbers for those who slay an antlerless deer (guys like me: 80-pounds, almost) vs folks who get skunked (You mentioned a guy in your article.) If a hunter is “successful” are they more on-board with continued deer harvest numbers? I always pitch the softball across the plate.

7 years ago

Vermont must be wayyyy different than Pennsylvania haha PA is so over hunted that 7-8 points are extreme trophy bucks in this area. Its hard to believe that the average deer taken in vermont is almost 8 points!