Hunters Anglers Trappers Association of Vermont















 


Hunters Issues
Chairman Sherb Lang
contact e-mail

 

 


"Moose The Hard Way"

"Well, what do you want to do now?" This was the question posed to me by Mike Poulin after yet another unsuccessful push through a spruce swamp at first light.

Mike and I were hunting alone, and had been at this since opening day of the 2005 moose season. It had rained every day and night since we started, and getting soaked was becoming the norm for us. To make matters worse, we had each poked a hole in our rubber boots the very first day.

I had seen 3 moose while scouting on Friday, one of which was a young bull with a 2 ft. spread, which I grunted in to about 15 yards, but alas, that was Friday, not Saturday.

Through the first 5 days, I had passed on several cows, but saw no bulls. It wasn't written in stone that I had to get a bull, since I had an "any sex" permit, but I thought a bull would be nice, so I held out. Mike, on the other hand, had seen several bulls as luck would have it. Once, he had two nice ones sparring in front of him. About here, I would point out that Mike and I had an agreement, that as long as I was awarded the permit, I would do the shooting. He was o.k. with this and we agreed that it would be the same way if he held the permit. In fact, Mike carried his bow a lot of the time as bow season was still on for deer, and anything's possible. Wouldn't you know, I had a big 10 point buck about 12 yards in front of me on Friday. Go figure!

We had been spending the week at my neighbor Winston Chambersí camp on Averill Lake. Many thanks to the Chambersí for that.

We weren't counting on the relentless rain, which eventually turned into some major flooding in the area. In spite of all the distractions, we persevered because after all, we were doing what we loved. Just don't ask us to work under these conditions.

Anyway, as I said at the beginning, we had to make a decision as to what to do. Move, or stay here in this area. We agreed to stay, as we had gotten to know this area well, and learning a new place in this rain didn't seem wise. We also knew this spot held moose, so we headed further into the woods.

About 8a.m. we were back in along the edge of a small boggy area, and were staying in contact with whistles and owl hoots. Mike was on the wet side of a little cut-over spine and I was on the upper hardwoods side. I suddenly heard Mike whistling more than would be usual, so I went to investigate. Turns out he had heard a moose scrubbing his antlers on a tree in the swamp. We headed over there and after Mike told me where he had heard it, I started putting on a sneak and peek. Almost immediately I saw a yearling cow in the trees ahead.

It is painfully slow work to try and move along and spot a bull before you spook him, especially if he has cows with him. Finally I picked out a larger cow looking in my direction, with yet another animal behind her which I couldn't make out. I turned to Mike who was staying about 20 yards behind me, and motioned for him to start trashing a tree and breaking limbs. As he did this, I started grunting in hopes that we could hold any bull from moving out.

Suddenly a huge cow walked into the open at 40 yards. She presented a perfect shot, but the safety stayed on. She was curious, but not willing to stick around. I continued grunting and scanning the trees.

Finally after a few more careful steps, I made out a large antler palm, and part of the left front shoulder through a hole about as big as a T.V. screen. Geeze, I had fantasized all week about seeing a nice bull standing broadside in an open cut, but this wasn't close to that. Still, I was immediately on it with the crosshairs, and touched off. My last impression, was that the bull lurched to the left at the shot, and disappeared. Mike approached and we talked it over. I didn't know it, but Mike had taken my picture as I shot. Cool!

We headed over to the spot where I had seen the bull, and almost immediately I spotted blood. "I wonder which of these trails he used," I asked Mike, as I looked to the left. Mike just tapped my shoulder, grinned and nodded to the right. There, 25 ft. away at the bottom of a bank, was the moose. Heart shot, he hadn't gone anywhere. The 180 grain Core-Lokt from my Remington 760 pump in 30-06 had done its work.

After a lot of high fives, back slapping, (and yes, a few hugs), we took a long look at this huge critter. It was a nice respectable bull with about a 48 in. spread, and 17 points. I still can't believe how big they look on the ground. Awesome!

We took a bunch of photos, and then the fun was definitely over. Mike offered to dress the bull as I held the legs. He did a great job, with no bad cuts. We then quartered it, sawed the main torso down each side of the backbone, and ended up with six pieces. I cut spruce poles while Mike sawed the antlers out and removed the lower legs. I lashed the parts to the poles and we got them all up off the ground to cool. After taking three elk with my bow, I am well aware of the importance of getting a large animal cooled quickly.

INCIDENTLY: I have since heard of several moose that ended up spoiled.

What a waste.

Finally we were ready, and started lugging a piece at a time with the pole on our shoulders, Indian style. The only breather we had all day, was the walk back to bring another piece forward. After four or five hours of this, the tops of our shoulders were like inflamed boils.

Mike and I each weigh over 200 lbs. and after all the rain, we were sinking to our ankles and beyond in lots of places. We lugged all day until dark, and were only able to get the 3 lightest pieces to the truck. We left the heaviest ones in the woods for the night, up off the ground and covered with boughs. I also left my stinkin' t-shirt near them. My GPS said that the kill site was 0.9 miles from the truck, and thatís a straight line. We actually carried it in a big arc due to the terrain.

It cleared off that night, with a hard frost which was good and we spent 2 hours the next morning at dawn getting the last three pieces out.

Although we will never know what it weighed, thatís as hard as I have ever worked, and if I EVER get to do it again, I'll shoot a calf.

I have to say, Mike worked with me step for step, and I owe him a lot. In fact, I gave him half the moose, bought him breakfast, supper, and it still doesn't seem like enough. We have been on some great hunts together, and this ranks right up there. Not bad for two guys our age. Mike is 60 and I'm 63. Hmmm, maybe we better stick to deer from now on..... NAH!!

Norm and Mike both live in Williamstown, Vt.



 

The topic of the Coyote Hunt and the rising consternation surrounding it was discussed at last week's HAT public meeting.


  The discussion generally surrounded the fact that HAT recognizes the hunting public's aggravation at the current condition of the deer herd and recognizes the explosion of coyote population as a contributing factor.

 

The F&W Dept. really has not addressed the issue of coyote impacts to the deer herd other than to say they recognize coyote kill and feed on deer and that their impact is certainly more visible in times when the deer herd is already low (like right now). 

 

HAT recognizes the coyote hunt is legal and, in the long run, will probably not impact the coyote population to any great degree.  However, the attempt to help control coyotes will provide some short term relief for at least some deer this winter (and rabbits, turkeys, partridge, sheep, house cats and even dogs).

 

HAT is hopeful the coyote pelts generated from this hunt will be properly processed and utilized.  HAT also hopes the F&W Dept. makes every effort to study the animals brought in and use this as a data gathering opportunity to study the coyotes - even if it is just at a rudimentary level.

 

The fact that coyotes are so populous in Vt. Speaks volumes to HAT about the impact the antis have had on trapping since this is a much more efficient means of impacting their numbers than hunting.  The antis want to have it both ways on this - no trapping - and - no hunting - but that is not reasonable either. 

 

HAT has done some investigating into this planned hunt as well and found a few things not covered in the local papers such as:

1)      all participants are permitted to hunt anywhere in Vt. - not all in the locale of the hunt headquarters

2)      many of the local businesses report a surge in business directly attributable to the hunters utilizing their goods/services

3)      all proceeds from the hunt will be donated to the local fire dept for their use as they see fit

4)  Wardens report no citations issued during coyote hunt in Orwell

5) Wardens commended hunters on their behavior during Orwell hunt

6) Many landowners have requested the hunters use their lands to hunt coyotes

7) Sheep farmers particularly hard hit by coyote predation

 

As everyone knows, the hunters participating in this event will be under intense scrutiny by the antis.  Any behavior not in line with the finest traditions of the hunting sports will be highlighted and held up as an "example" of what "hunters" do.  We need to be aware of this fact and conduct ourselves accordingly.

 

 

Seek to enhance the value of deer and deer hunting to hunters and the State of Vermont

  • Seek to maximize hunting opportunity and the quality of hunting experiences

  • Seek to minimize losses to other industries and the public caused by deer

    Seek to minimize conflicts between hunters, land owners, and the public
  • Seek to encourage humane and ethical hunting practices
  • Seek to promote, protect, and preserve the deer hunting heritage

 


Hunters Anglers Trappers
Association of Vermont

Position Statement

Vermont Deer Herd Management Proposals

The Hunters Anglers Trappers Association of Vermont (H.A.T.) recognizes the overwhelming majority of hunter dissatisfaction with the numbers, size and quality of Vermontís deer herd as it is today. H.A.T. also recognizes the fact that each hunter has his own perspective and point of view concerning the direction the Vt. Department of Fish & Wildlife (F&W) should follow to improve the herd.

HATíS Hunting Committee headed by Sherb Lang and the HAT Board of Directors have worked extensively on this issue. HATís lobbyist Steve McLeod has attended preliminary legislative deliberations on the deer herd and has attended meetings where hunters have put forth proposals for change.

While the Fish & Wildlife Department and sporting community cannot control the severity of Vermont winters, there are some things we can control that virtually all sports folk agree will improve the health, size and abundance of Vermontís deer herd.

First, Vermont needs to make habitat management a major priority immediately. Timber harvesting provides essential food and shelter for deer, moose, rabbit, grouse, and most wildlife, and Vermont is decades behind in implementing timber cuts on state lands. HAT and the Vermont Traditions Coalition have been in the front lines of the battle to restore timber management and healthier wildlife throughout Vermont and advocate a major wildlife habitat initiative this legislative session as part of any deer restoration plan that is adopted.

Second, Vermont needs to aggressively market hunting and fishing so that license sales and consequently Fish & Wildlife Dept. revenues can be increased to provide the funds necessary to enhance hunting and fishing opportunities.

Third, HAT will work with all sporting community factions to help develop the best deer management plan for Vermontís future, and has already researched the major plans that have been proposed.

The major plans under consideration or that have been proposed are:

1. Do Nothing Ė Continue on Present Course Basically, the seasons would remain the same, the bag limits would not change, the definition of a legal buck would remain unaltered and F&W would continue to make adjustments to the number of anterless permits issued per WMU This is the course of action John Buck Ė F&W Biologist and leader of ďDeer TeamĒ has utilized in the past. John has asserted previously there is no biological reason for altering any aspects of todayís deer herd management strategy
2. Enter into a 5 year experiment for ďComprehensive Deer ManagementĒ in 2 or 3 WMUís which would establish antler restrictions and intense deer study to determine impact on deer demographics, hunter satisfaction, success rates and opportunities. The experiment WMUís would be separated geographically into a northern and a southern zone. The deer seasons would remain the same. Hunters would be subject to antler restrictions within the experiment zones. The number of doe permits within the experiment zones would be increased to ďbalanceĒ the reduction in buck kill. This experiment is designed and recommended by the current F&W Deer Management Team. It is limited in scope to WMUís where hunters are most receptive to the experiment and where most learning can take place.
3. Apply the experimental changes listed in Option 2 above to the entire State and not just selected WMUís. No changes proposed to Option 2 except to apply statewide immediately.  
4. Change the deer bag limit statewide to one deer only per hunter. This plan would restrict a hunter from taking more than one deer regardless of open season in effect. In other words, if a deer is harvested while bowhunting, that hunter cannot kill another deer during rifle or muzzleloader seasons. This proposal is fashioned after the Maine deer management strategy. The definition of a legal buck would not change under this proposal. The one deer allotment could be a legal buck or a doe taken on an anterless permit but only one deer per annum per hunter would be allowed. The deer seasons would remain the same under this plan. F&W Board would continue to authorize doe tags per WMU in accordance with established scientific basis. This plan would be applied statewide. Youth hunters who killed a deer on Youth Hunting Weekend would not be allowed to kill another deer in the same calendar year. No hunter would be allowed to kill more than one deer during the calendar year. This plan is put forth by a group of hunters and sportsmen from the Northeast Kingdom section of Vermont. It is a plan that relies on hunters automatically limiting the buck kill by reason that any buck killed would basically end hunting for that year and, therefore, many hunters would become more selective.
5. Keep all seasons the same except doe permits shall be used prior to muzzleloader season. The idea here is to cull excess does prior to major breeding season so as to help ensure all remaining does are bred and that pregnant does arenít killed in muzzleloader season. This proposal entails having a special muzzleloader weekend hunt between archery season and regular rifle season.
6. Open up Youth Hunting Season to non-resident youths Idea behind this proposal is to begin ďconditioningĒ young hunters to come to Vermont to hunt whitetails. Proposal includes reduced fee license for non-resident youth hunters but they must be accompanied by a licensed adult. This proposal is expected to increase Vt. hunter numbers over the long term and bring additional money into F&W budget for benefit of all hunters.
7. Leave all current seasons, bag limits and legal buck definitions the same but apply the focus to habitat management. The idea here is to develop programs whereby F&W can begin to help protect, manage and control deer winter habitat located on public and private lands. This must include some form of recompense for affected landowners such as management easements or direct purchase. Habitat, especially winter habitat is the chief limiting factor on the deer herd size and distribution in Vermont. The harsh winter climate effectively controls deer herd size when winter habitat carrying capacity is exceeded. F&W had based its whole strategy in years past, on balancing the herd to the winter carrying capacity of the habitat. This proposal focuses on improving winter habitat to grow the deer carrying capacity of the land. This proposal is difficult since it involves habitat management on private as well as public lands. This is always difficult when public funding is involved. The F&W dept. would need to design plans that allow them access to and management involvement to private lands where significant deer yard areas exist.

It is clear that there are many proposals and many factions in this discussion and all have valid points and some statistics to back their position. The other issue that is clear is that all parties to this discussion are motivated by the same goal Ė to improve Vermontís deer herdís health, size and quality and to restore Vermontís pride in its deer herd.

The first step for any of the above proposals (except number 1) is to gain consensus of the majority of Vermont deer hunters so the proposal has a chance of being enacted. Without approval from the Legislature, the automatic default is option 1 Ė do nothing different.

Commissioner Wayne Laroche and the F&W dept. have put extensive work into assimilating a large body of scientific data, and have compiled an extensive deer hunter survey to determine hunter deer management preferences. The survey of 5,000 hunters resulted in approximately 65% favorable response to its proposed experiment (Option 2). In order to assist the departmentís information gathering effort, HAT has developed its own deer survey (access it on the HAT website at www.hatvt.org). The current standing of the HAT survey has antler restrictions as the most acceptable management tool carrying 43.9% of the votes to date.

In March, the Fish & Wildlife Dept. will hold its regional deer hearings throughout Vermont where folks from each region can offer proposals of their own or have their say on the departmentís experiment proposal. At that point, the Legislature will likely determine what role it wants to play in adopting a management plan, and will consider legislative options. These options will either mandate a plan or give the Fish & Wildlife Dept. and Fish & Wildlife Board the authority to adopt some or all of the proposed options listed above. Once the legislature acts, the department and board will make its final deer management decision.

Hopefully, the final decision will be coupled with a landmark wildlife habitat restoration initiative, and a substantial commitment to promoting Vermontís fishing and hunting heritage so that we truly have a comprehensive plan to maximize the vitality of wildlife and hunting opportunities. 88.9% of the HAT survey respondents are in favor of more active land management (cutting) on the lands F&W are responsible for.

All proposals will be debated and proposals most likely to succeed are those that have a scientific basis and popular support. There is the possibility that open, thoughtful discussion and debate may allow for incorporation of different proposals for different WMUs, at least on an experimental basis, depending on the relative deer densities, size, and herd health in different regions.

Proponents of other options are now in the position of trying to determine the level of hunter acceptance of their preferred option. This is a difficult but necessary step in winning legislative, department and Fish & Wildlife Board acceptance. It is up to these folks to find a way to demonstrate the level of acceptance of their proposal either by similar hunter polls, petition, etc.

H.A.T. is taking the position that we are a consensus organization representing the majority of Vermontís sportsmen and women and are trying ourselves to determine the level of acceptance of these various proposals. H.A.T. will back the proposal that carries the most widespread acceptance of Vermont hunters. H.A.T. has been and will be well represented at all the public hearings on this subject and will continue to lend our support in any way we can.

Set forth this ___________ day of February, 2004 by the H.A.T. Board of Directors

Wilderness in Vermont