In his May report to the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Board, DFW Deer Project Leader David Stainbrook recommended few changes to the antlerless permit allocations for this year's deer hunting season. In fact, no allocation changes were recommended for Wildlife Management Zones (WMZ) 1 through 9. (The Western District encompasses WMZ 1 through parts of WMZ 4.)
That is because the deer density levels are at the desired levels or very close to them. However, in WMZs 10-12, the division is still struggling to attain what it considers optimal density levels. He recommended increasing the antlerless permits from 11,000 to 12,000 in WMZ 10, from 10,000 to 11,000 in WMZ 11 and from 650 to 800 in WMZ 12. Those zones are at the eastern end of the commonwealth and on Cape Cod. The board approved his recommendation.
To get an idea of the existing density problem in the east, contrast the total number of permits in WMZs 1-9 (13,174), which takes you from the Berkshires to Route 495, to the 23,000 around the Boston area. They must have a serious deer problem on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, too, for the permits total 2,700 on each island. The entire Western Mass. area, west of the Connecticut River, only has 2,325 permits.
So why is there such a problem getting the deer density totals down in the east? The main reason given by DFW is that many of these towns do not allow deer hunting. As a consequence, the herd there has skyrocketed to the point that residents are complaining they are eating all of their flowers, bushes and gardens. The deer are also taking a heavy toll on various tree saplings necessary to sustain their forests, as well as eating rare and endangered plants. There are high numbers of deer/auto collisions, as well as high rates of Lyme disease caused by deer ticks.
The only way DFW can get the deer densities down to desired levels is by increasing the number of antlerless permits in towns where people can hunt.
Interestingly, some of those thickly-settled towns are beginning to allow archery hunting. They consider it safer than shotgun hunting, but it is still a way to help alleviate the problem. Last year in those zones, more deer were harvested by bow hunters than any other method. Now the state legislature is looking into possibly allowing archery deer hunting on Sundays.
DFW Director Wayne MacCallum is pleased that two-thirds of the state is basically at density goals. He doesn't believe there is another state in the country that has a deer population as healthy as ours.
"We have hard winters but we don't have winter kills because we've got those densities down to a point where we have sustainable harvests," MacCallum said. "For nearly two decades, some 10,000 deer have been harvested a year."
He also praised the new data base model being used by DFW to manage the deer herd.
F&W Board Chairman George "Gige" Darey expects the new data model to get even better because they are just at the beginning of using it.
"It is so important to manage the deer herd," Darey said. "We can't let it get out of sync, like what is happening in Maine (high winter kills) and on Long Island (where they are so many that they are contemplating poisoning them)."
Stainbrook also reported the final numbers for the 2013 deer hunting seasons. Approximately 11,566 deer were harvested by hunters during the combined 2013 hunting seasons. By season, the statewide total breaks down as follows: six deer taken during the special deer season for paraplegic sportsmen; 4,486 taken in the archery season; 4,609 taken during the shotgun season; 2,343 taken during the muzzleloading season; and 122 deer harvested during the Quabbin Reservation hunt. For more detailed information, go to the MassWildlife White-Tailed Deer Harvest Information website.
Incidentally, the deadline for applying for a 2014 antlerless deer permit is July 16. There is no application fee, but a $5 fee is charged if you are selected for a permit during the Instant Award period. If you are not sure you submitted an antlerless deer permit application, check your hunting license in the Item Purchased section where you will see a line item that reads: "Antlerless Deer Permit Application." You can also log on to the MassFishHunt website at www.mass.gov/massfishhunt and check your customer inventory. If you have not yet applied, you can submit your application for an antlerless deer permit either online through a computer or at a licensed vendor.
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Steve Bateman of Pittsfield, organizer for the 22nd annual Harry A. Bateman Memorial Jimmy Fund Fishing Derby which was held on June 7, can't thank you enough for supporting this derby. A record 252 people participated. He reports that it was a beautiful day but no monsters were caught.
Award winners were highlighted in The Eagle's Sunday, June 15, edition.
To reach Gene Chague:
or (413) 637-1818.