Deer shotgun season numbers dip from last year high

Hunters gather at the state forest check station in this photo from a season long past. — File photo by Ezra Newick

Hunters put a dent in the Martha’s Vineyard deer population during the two-week deer shotgun season that ended Saturday, but the final official tally is expected to fall well short of the record 2011 tally.

Last year, hunters checked in 454 deer during shotgun season, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFG). An informal survey of check stations by The Times shows an unofficial 2012 count of 282 animals.

The season was relatively problem-free, according to Island Environmental Police Sergeant Michael Camire. On December 5, he wrote a non-criminal citation for two hunters who shot a deer on private property on Chappaquiddick where they did not have permission to hunt.

“It was very quiet,” John Varkonda, State Forest superintendent, told The Times. Mr. Varkonda said the second week he did not see hunters until Friday.

One factor that affected the harvest was the availability of food. Unlike last year, there was a plentiful supply of acorns which meant that deer did not have to travel far to find food, making them less vulnerable to waiting hunters.

DFG staffs a deer check station the first week of the shotgun season. Otherwise, hunters have several options for checking deer that include Larry’s in Edgartown, the Wampanoag Tribe, State Forest superintendent Mr. Varkonda, and Sergeant Camire.

Steve Purcell, owner of Larry’s Tackle on Upper Main Street in Edgartown said he checked in 44 deer the first week and 23 deer the second week.

The tribe checked in 58 shotgun deer, Bret Stearns, natural resource department director, said.

DFG wildlife forester Brian Hawthorne, on duty at the State Forest, checked in 156 deer the first week of shotgun season. In contrast, in 2011 the forest check station accounted for 210 deer. Mr. Hawthorne said the Island deer population appears very healthy.

The primitive firearms season began Monday, Dec. 10, and ends Monday, Dec. 31. Deer may be brought to Larry’s, 9 am to 3 pm, Monday through Saturday to be checked in.