Photo courtesy of Dave Sartwell

The shotgun deer season opens in Massachusetts on Monday, Nov. 26, and will end Dec. 8. The Black powder season will be held from Dec.10 to Dec. 31. The limit is two antlered deer per year. Because of the easy winters we have had in the past couple of years, the number of deer in the woods all over Cape Ann is high. In fact, there is a chance we will break the record for the number of deer taken in the state that was set in 2002 at 12,417.

Massachusetts Deer Project Leader David Stainbrook reports a total of 11,154 white-tailed deer harvested by licensed hunters during the combined 2011 seasons. By season, the total broke down to 8 deer taken during the special deer season for paraplegic sportsmen; 3,765 taken in the archery season; 5,349 taken during the shotgun season; 1,959 taken during the muzzleloading season; and 73 deer harvested during the Quabbin Reservation hunt.

Deer populations are managed according to deer density goals established to maintain healthy deer populations in balance with the environment. Goals are set at levels that allow sustainable deer harvest and deer viewing opportunities for hunters and wildlife watchers, and at levels which minimize impacts on property damage, public health issues, and safety.

Of course the problem here on the North Shore is that the areas open to the public to hunt are shrinking.

This means that the deer herd will continue to grow resulting in populations that the land cannot sustain.

It is interesting the to look at the deer harvest figures over time.

In 1966 there were a total of 3,404 deer taken of which 3,386 were killed with shotguns and 18 by archery.

The total the reflected the huge weather problems of that winter with only 1,193 deer harvested. There were ups and downs over the next decade, until in 1981 when the harvest jumped to 5,011.

It was in that era that the archery hunting started to really come into popularity.

From 1975 when the archery take first hit 100 through 1980 when it hit 200, the sport was really growing. But in 1981 it jumped to 418 and has risen dramatically ever since.

For example it was just 9 years later in 1990 that it went over 1,000, in 1999 it was 2,469 and in 2006 it jumped to 3,385 deer taken with a bow.

And, as stated above, last year 3,765 were taken by arrow. Stainbrook noted that 2011 was the highest deer harvest on record for the archery season. “Archery is a vital management tool particularly in suburban areas,” he said, “where deer densities are higher due to limited hunting access.”

The primitive firearm season results have also grown quickly. The first powder season in 1973 produced only 7 deer. By 1977 it was at 130, but as it was with the archery folks, primitive firearm hunting suddenly became popular. In 1980 there were 211 killed and 1992 produced the first season over 1,000 with a take of 1,118.

The big jump came in this decade when in 2002 it went to 1,350 and then 1,844 in 2003, 2,147 in 2004 and 2,325 in the year 2005. It has hovered around 2,000 over the last few years.

The shotgun season has also seen increases that reflect the gradual growth of the deer herd around the state.

In 1970 the kill was 2,369 growing to 3,035 in 1980.

In 1991 it jumped to 7,169 and 8,131 in 1995. Since 2003 the shotgun deer kill has been in the 5,600 to 7,000 range which reflects the management goals of the state.

Vermont Big Bucks

Vermont has more older, bigger bucks after a regulation was enacted in 2005, protecting many yearling bucks.

The antler regulation for a “legal buck” is designed to recruit more older bucks into the population. A legal buck must have at least one antler having two or more points one inch or longer, thus, spike-antlered deer are protected.

A point must be one inch or longer from base to tip.

The main beam counts as a point, regardless of length.

It is working over time. The average deer size and point count has gone up significantly. Unfortunately, the harsh winter in Vermont last year killed a lot of deer. In 2009 the harvest was 15,237 and was 15,675 in 2010.

It dropped last year, but it was not the result of the program, but of weather.

This passing up of 1 1/2 year old bucks is something worth considering. It would mean more big bucks and better trophies in the woods.

Hunting spots

There is still time to get out an find a good spot or two for opening day. Don’t be afraid to stop an ask permission where there are posted signs. Many landowners just want to know who is on their land. If they say no, be polite and respect their wishes. If they say yes, be sure to bring them a box of chocolates or some other treat after the season.

Read the Rule Book

Just take the time to read the rule book. For example, there are restrictions on tree stands that you need to know. How far from a paved road and how far from an occupied dwelling do you have to be?

What are the hours you can hunt, what shot can you use and how much orange you need to be wearing are answers you need to know. Look them up BEFORE you go out.

See ya in the woods.

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