Deer archery season begins on Monday

A Chilmark deer enjoys morning brunch on a manicured lawn. — File photo by Tim Johnson

Massachusetts’s six-week deer archery hunting season begins on Monday. Hunters interested in stocking the freezer with venison and state wildlife officials who consider the season an important method to control the state’s deer herd look forward to a successful hunt.

Archery hunting became more popular in recent years. Advances in technology and the opportunity to get a jump on the season has attracted many to the ancient practice.

Shooting a compound bow requires a degree of physical preparation not necessarily associated with other types of weapons. Draw weight, the amount of force needed to pull the bow string back, varies on average between 55 and 70 pounds.

The bow and the arrows require tuning. Not all arrows and not all points fly straight.

Shot placement is vital for a quick kill. For an archer to consistently hit a specific target, he or she must follow a well practiced routine of drawing the arrow back and releasing the string. Any deviation may result in a missed shot, or worse, an injured deer that cannot be recovered.

Steve Purcell, owner of Larry’s tackle in Edgartown, sells and services archery equipment. Mr. Purcell said conscientious hunters begin preparing well in advance of the season, including target practice and replacing worn parts.

Mr. Purcell said many hunters wait until the last minute to replace worn strings or cracked and aging tubing used to align the string’s “peep” sight.

“It’s a big problem,” Mr. Purcell said.

The result can be failure at a critical point, or even injury. Mr. Purcell said strings should be replaced about every five years or when there any signs of unraveling.

Mr. Purcell said too many hunters do not practice enough before heading into the woods.

“My advice is to practice before you go hunting,” he said.

With a six-week season, there is plenty of time to practice and pay attention to equipment, even for those who have waited until the last minute, and it is the right thing to do.

“It’s only better for the animal,” Mr. Purcell said.

Hunter safety

Many archers use tree stands. Falls are one of the common causes of hunter injury and death. Experts advise hunters to use a full-body harness and to remain connected at all times, particularly when ascending and descending from the tree stand platform.

One recommended method is to connect the harness to a prussic knot that then slides along a standing line attached above the tree stand. The knot, commonly used by climbers, slides along the line but jams tight when pulled.

Archers must have a state hunting license and deer stamp, available on line or at some town offices. In West Tisbury, town clerk Tara Whiting said she will be out of the office several days this week and next but will be in the office from 10:30 to 12:30, Saturday for people who need licenses.

Hunters must possess an antlerless deer permit to shoot does. Permits cost $5 each and are available at the Dukes County office at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport (508-696-3840), Larry’s (508-627-5088) and the Wampanoag Tribe natural resources department (508-645-9265, ext:170).

Deer must be tagged and checked at an official check station. Larry’s and the Wampanoag Tribe check deer on regular hours. John Varkonda will also check deer by apointment (508-693-2540). Depending on availablity, Chilmark Police chief Brian Cioffi and Edgartown police officer Joel DeRoche will also check deer.

Encouraging signs

After two years of bumper acorn crops, Island trees appear to be taking a rest. That could bode well for hunters, since the deer will need to roam more to feed, making them more predictable.

According to Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) harvest figures, Vineyard deer hunters took a total of 570 deer during the archery, shotgun, and muzzleloader seasons in 2010. By comparison, hunters checked 628 deer in 2009 and 696 deer in 2008.

Island bow hunters took 179 deer during the state’s six-week archery season, an increase of 22 deer over the 2009 season and 18 fewer than the record archery total in 2008.

The Massachusetts deer hunting season runs from mid-October to December 31. It includes a six-week archery season, two-week shotgun season, and approximately three-week muzzleloader season.