Deer hunting season kicks off Monday
The Massachusetts deer season begins one half hour before sunrise Monday with the start of the state's six-week archery season. Vineyard hunters will find some changes, most notably with regard to where they can check deer in.
State Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) regulations require that all deer must be taken to an official check station within 48 hours of being killed.
For many years, Island hunters relied on Walter Ashley of Oak Bluffs, owner of C and W Power Equipment, adjacent to the airport business park.
From an office warmed by a wood stove, located in a rustic wooden barn loaded with power tools in various stages of repair, Mr. Ashley checked and weighed deer, sold doe tags and dispensed equal amounts of hunting knowledge and wry observations, or, depending on his mood and disposition, said little.
For many hunters, stopping in at C and W has been a cherished part of the Vineyard hunting experience. But after more than a decade of assisting the DFW on a voluntary basis, Mr. Ashley has decided to call it quits. He said that for the most part he enjoyed providing the service, but it was often time consuming.
The decision was made easier, he said, when Steve Purcell bought Larry's Tackle Shop on Upper Main Street in Edgartown and began expanding into hunting gear. Mr. Purcell has agreed to check deer and sell doe tags throughout the 2008 season.
Mr. Purcell, an avid hunter as well as a fisherman, said the choice was easy since he is open throughout the fall and now sells archery and black powder equipment. "Everyone was complaining that there is no place to check deer so I figured I'd help out," he said.
Larry's will be open seven days a week through the end of October after which the shop will be open Monday through Saturday through to the end of the hunting season. Although much of his time will be spent in his shop Mr. Purcell plans to make some time to be in the woods. "I'll hunt mornings," he said.
In addition to Larry's, hunters have several other ways to purchase doe tags and check in deer. The Wampanoag Natural Resources Department located in the Tribal administration building in Aquinnah will check in deer and sell doe tags as will John Varkonda, Manuel F. Correllus State Forest supervisor. Doe tags are also sold at the Dukes County administration building off Airport Road.
The Massachusetts Environmental Police are responsible for enforcing state hunting and fishing regulations. Sergeant Pat Grady is responsible for the Vineyard's woods and waters.
On the eve of the deer season, Sergeant Grady advised hunters to hunt safely. In particular he stressed hunters must be cautious when climbing into, or out of a tree stand. Falls from tree stands are one of the most common types of hunting accidents. Serious injury can be prevented by wearing an approved safety harness.
Speaking about some of the most common hunting infractions, Sergeant Grady said hunters will sometimes place multiple tree stands around a property as a way of reserving hunting territory. But hunters must have written permission from a landowner to keep a tree stand in place more than 30 days, he said.
Placing out bait to attract deer within shooting range is illegal and seems to occur more often during bow season, according to Mr. Grady. One common excuse is that the hunter did not know the bait was there.
Sergeant Grady said it is up to the hunter to know his or her area. He said it is hard to believe that a hunter did not know about a pile of apples 20 yards away from a tree stand.
Oftentimes a hunter will shoot a deer late in the afternoon or just before sunset. By the time he or she recovers the animal it is too late to check it in.
If the weather is warm the hunter is often anxious to begin processing the animal. Work schedules coupled with getting the animal to a check station can further complicate matters.
Sergeant Grady said the information gathered from hunters is an important part of good management. Hunters need to make the effort to check in deer but Mr. Grady understands the difficulties and is willing to exercise enforcement discretion. "If people are having a problem they can call me," he said.
One source of problems in recent years has been hunters assuming that a house is unoccupied and hunting too close. Hunting is not allowed within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling without the written permission of the owner. Mr. Grady said more people are staying later into the season and hunters should never assume a house is unoccupied.
The 2008 archery season ends on Saturday, Nov. 22. As a result, there is a one-week break that includes the Thanksgiving Day Holiday, a time when many hunters look forward to hunting with family members. The loss of that week is a function of the hunting statute upon which the archery season dates are set.
The two-week shotgun season begins on Monday, Dec. 1. The two-and-a-half-week muzzleloader season starts on December 15 and ends on the last day of the year.
Statewide hunters took 11,576 deer in 2007. Vineyard deer hunters took a total of 460 deer over the archery, shotgun and muzzleloader seasons in 2007. By contrast, hunters checked in 622 deer in 2006.
In 2007, wildlife officials recorded 134 deer during the archery season, 275 deer during the two-week shotgun season, and 51 deer during the muzzleloader season.
The seasonal deer tally is of interest beyond the hunting fraternity. 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.
Up-Island residents who would like fresh venison do not need to develop hunting skills. Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury are creating a call list of people willing to immediately pick up deer killed on up-Island roadways. For more information, call 508-693-0020.