The Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Board conducted its May meeting at the Western District Headquarters of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) in Dalton on May 26.
At that meeting, DFW Deer Biologist David Stainbrook presented his 2015 deer review and made recommendations for the 2016 Deer Permit Allocations.
The statewide 2016 deer harvest was as follows: Youth hunt — 146, archery — 4,187, shotgun — 4,088 and primitive firearms — 1,633, totaling 10,054.
The breakdown was as follows: 5,814 adult bucks, 3,439 does and 801 button bucks. The total number was down from the 2014 harvest by 6 percent and the five-year average by 4 percent.
Stainbrook noted that last year's deer hunting season was unique in that due to the lack of snow, there was an abundance of food and the deer didn't have to move as frequently or far to get to the food. That could explain why fewer deer were seen and taken this last deer season. Neighboring states also had similar experiences (use that as your excuse for not getting a deer last year).
Because antlerless harvests vary according to the permits issued, DFW monitors the adult bucks for trends as long as changes in hunting hours, success and reporting rate are factored in. In the Western District (zones 1 through 4S), here is the 2015 breakdown of bucks harvested by all methods: Zone 1 — 218, up 25 percent from previous year and up 39 percent from five-year average; Zone 2 — 417, up 4 percent from prior year and up 25 percent from five-year average; Zone 3 — 338, up 9 percent from previous year and down 3 percent from five-year average; Zone 4N — 343, down 2 percent from prior year but up 10 percent from five-year average; Zone 4S — 174, up 14 percent from prior year and up 7 percent from five-year average.
These figures make up part of the formula for determining deer permit allocations. Another factor is the age structure. In our district, 50 percent of the 2015 harvest was made up of deer 2 ½ years and older.
That tells the biologists that there is no unbalanced age structure and consequently no overharvesting taking place. These figures have been consistent over time. In Zone 1-3, the population is increasing, in Zone 4-5 it is stable and in Zones 6 and 8, the population is on the lower end of the desired range.
Based upon these statistics and other factors, Stainbrook's recommendation to the Board was to keep the 2016 antlerless allocations unchanged in all zones except for Zone 6, which will be reduced from 450 to 300, Zone 8 from 2,800 to 2,500 and the Quabbin area, reduced to 500. In our area, Zone 1 allocations will be 400, Zone 2 — 175, Zone 3 — 1,100, Zone 4N — 375 and Zone 4S — 275.
There will be no changes in the youth permits this year, but DFW is closely monitoring them. Last year (the program's 1st year), some 1,339 youths participated in the one-day special hunt, bagging 146 deer of which 90 were antlerless. This year, they expect around 2,000 kids participating. The numbers of antlerless deer harvested by them may very well affect deer densities in some zones.
Last year, the Board was concerned about the effects of the historic 2014-2015 snow totals, especially in Eastern Massachusetts, and what impact, if any, they had on the deer population.
To help determine that, deer biologists analyzed dead deer from across the state to determine the causes of death. A good method for determining if death was caused by starvation is the analysis of the fat content in the bone marrow.
The analyses concluded that the fat contents were about normal and there was no evidence of massive starvation. There were a few instances where it appeared some died of starvation, but that was in areas of high deer densities in Eastern Massachusetts, where some towns closed their borders to deer hunting.
Another good indicator is an increase in the direct mortality of fawns over the winter. Biologists did not see any drop in the 1 ½ year old deer harvested in 2015.
There are other indicators of winter mortality, called indirect mortality. That is where a deer or fawn survived the winter, but their antler mass was less than in normal years; i.e., not enough protein to grow the body and the antlers. The 2015 harvest did not indicate any unusually low antler mass. Also, according to Stainbrook, there was no drop in fawn reproduction across the state last spring.
As a result of all the analyses, it was concluded that the historic winter did not seriously impact the Massachusetts deer population.
BOW HUNTING COURSE
There will be a MassWildlife Bow Hunter Education Course at the Worthington Rod & Gun Club, 458 Dingle Road Rte. 112, Worthington, MA on Sunday, June 12 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Students must attend the all-day class to successfully complete the course.
Call 508-389-7830 to enroll. Classes are filled first-come, first-serve, and enrollment cannot be processed via email.
SPRING TROUT STOCKING
DFW Western District Manager, Andrew Madden has announced that the spring trout stocking has been completed for 2016.
I must say they outdid themselves this year with large, beautiful fish. If you have been paying attention to the sizes of the winning trout in the fishing derbies, you have to agree, for it was not uncommon to see trout caught which weighed in excess of 2 lbs.
Now, all that has to be done is for you and the youngsters to catch some. Tight lines!
Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone: (413) 637-1818.