Vineyard deer population believed to be in excellent condition

John Scanlon gathers data on the deer's age and health.
Photo by Yoojin Cho

John Scanlon gathers data on the deer's age and health.

Since the start of the Massachusetts archery deer hunting season on October 17, Vineyard hunters have been afield with many in search of a big buck.

Last Monday, the two-week shotgun season began. As of Saturday, Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) officials at the State Forest deer check station had checked in 210 deer.

Nick Giliberto, a senior at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, who checked in his first deer ever, and Richard Kane, who has been hunting for more than 20 years, were among the successful hunters who stopped at the check station.

For each deer brought in, DFW Forestry Project Leader John Scanlon observes the animal’s jaw to determine the age and measures the antler beam diameter to determine the overall health.

“What we are looking for is to get a good idea of population structure,” Mr. Scanlon said. “We want young population. It they are all old like me, this is a problem.”

The average antler beam diameter indicates overall population health for white-tailed deer. A less than 14-milimeter average for yearling bucks indicates relatively poor quality deer habitat. DFW wants the deer population to have an average of 20 mm or bigger because that number indicates an excellent quality deer habitat.

Mr. Scanlon said, “Given that the average antler beam diameter for yearling bucks on the Vineyard is 20+ mm, the population appears to have great capacity to grow rapidly without regulated hunting.”