Hunters took record number of deer in 2008 seasons
Island hunters took a record number of deer in 2008, according to harvest figures released recently by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. It is unclear if the higher tally reflects more hunting effort or better hunting conditions when compared with 2007, a year in which numbers dipped considerably.
Vineyard deer hunters took a total of 696 deer during the archery, shotgun, and muzzleloader seasons in 2008. By comparison hunters checked in 460 deer in 2007.
Island bow hunters took a record number of 197 deer. The shotgun total increased from 275 to 418 but did not surpass earlier years when the season lasted only one week.
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. Statewide hunters took 11,217 in 2008, or 359 fewer deer than in 2007.
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.
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.
Hunters in zone 11, which covers much of southeastern Massachusetts and includes the towns of Plymouth, Brockton and Norwell took 883 deer during the bow season and 1,014 during shotgun, the state's largest tally.
Fisheries and Wildlife Deer/Moose Project Leader Sonja Christensen said that 2008 was another record year for archery with nearly a seven-percent increase statewide. "Archery is an important management tool in suburban areas where deer densities are higher and firearms discharge and other local bylaws are in place," she said in a press release.
She said that there was a slight overall decrease from 2007 during the shotgun and muzzleloader seasons, most likely due to difficult hunting conditions resulting from the December ice storm in the central and western regions of the state. In addition, fewer antlerless deer permits were issued in 8 of the 15 wildlife management zones because deer populations now meet Mass Wildlife's management goals for those zones.
For more information on deer numbers, go to: mass.gov/dfwele/dfw/recreation/hunting.