Island hunters saw the Vineyard deer harvest drop in 2009 following a record number of deer taken over the 2008 season, according to harvest figures the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) released last week. It is unclear if the lower tally reflects fewer deer, a common observation on the part of many hunters, or environmental conditions.
The Island experienced an abundance of acorns in 2009. The abundance of one of the deer’s favorite foods meant that the animals did not have to travel very far to feed, and were therefore less vulnerable to hunters.
Vineyard deer hunters took a total of 628 deer during the archery, shotgun, and muzzleloader seasons in 2009. By comparison hunters checked in 696 deer in 2008.
DFW deer project leader Sonja Christensen reported a total of 10,581 white-tailed deer harvested by licensed hunters during the combined 2009 seasons. Ms. Christensen said that 2009 was the second highest harvest for the archery season on record, falling slightly below the 2008 season.
Island bow hunters took 157 deer during the state’s six-week archery season, or 40 fewer deer than the record number of 197 deer they shot in 2008.
The shotgun total dropped from 418 to 372. The only increase was in the muzzleloader season. Island hunters took 99 deer compared to 81 in the 2008 season.
The Massachusetts deer-hunting season runs from mid-October to Dec. 31. It includes a six-week archery season, two-week shotgun season, and approximately three-week muzzleloader season.
By season, the state total breaks down to 4 deer taken during the special deer season for paraplegic sportsmen; 3,492 taken in the archery season; 4,927 taken during the shotgun season; 1,958 taken during the muzzleloading season; and 200 deer harvested during the Quabbin Reservation hunt.
Ms. Christensen said that archery remains an important management tool in suburban areas where deer densities are higher due to limited hunting access. Regarding the drop in shotgun numbers, she said that many hunters noticed a large acorn crop in 2009, “which often results in less deer movement as deer do not need move long distances for food resources,” according to a press release.
“Quality deer are found throughout the Commonwealth,” Ms. Christensen said. “We consistently see a balanced age structure among the deer checked in at our biological check stations, which means that young deer are surviving to older age classes.”
Unlike last year, the 2010 hunting season will include a Thanksgiving deer hunt. In the past, the number of Mondays in October affected whether the season included the holiday week, a time period when many hunters look forward to hunting with family members. In June 2009, the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife board voted to change the regulations that stipulate when the state’s six-week archery season begins so that it will include the Thanksgiving holiday.
In communities around the state and country an increase in the number of deer is blamed for heightened incidences of tick-borne diseases, a rise in deer-vehicle collisions, and environmental damage caused by over-browsing on young plants.
The Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) divides the state into 14 wildlife management zones. Deer populations have increased, particularly in suburban areas of eastern Massachusetts. In response, DFW has expanded the length of the hunting seasons and increased the availability of doe permits in select zones in an effort to control deer herds.
For more information on deer numbers, go to: mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/recreation/hunting.