Shotgun season to end, but deer can't rest
Although the Vineyard's two-week deer shotgun season ends one-half hour after sunset Saturday, Island deer will receive no respite from hunting pressure.
On Monday, Dec. 11, the state's muzzleloader season starts. Hunters using a variety or one-shot muzzle loading rifles will have until one half hour after sunset on Saturday, Dec. 30 to bag a deer.
This week Environmental Police Sergeant Patrick Grady said that with the exception of a hunter shot with buckshot on Saturday it has been a relatively quiet shotgun season. Calls have included complaints about trespassing, illegal tree stands, and baiting, he said. Sgt. Grady issued one citation to a hunter, part of a party of hunters, who was not carrying his hunting license.
Although hunting success varies among hunters, the number of deer taken in the first week of shotgun season remained about the same as last year. The new factor is the addition of an added week of shotgun hunting.
After hearing strong support from Islanders concerned about an increase in tick-borne diseases, the state Fisheries and Wildlife board last spring voted to increase the Vineyard season from six to 12 days in an effort to further control the deer herd. Other than the Cape Cod district, all of the state's hunting districts, including Nantucket, now have a two-week shotgun season.
In general, hunters did not support the addition of an additional week of shotgun hunting and questioned the estimate of deer numbers. Hunters reported varying success during the six-week deer archery season that preceded the shotgun season.
Walter Ashley, who volunteers to assist the state and check in deer during the archery and muzzleloader season at his small-engine repair shop off Barnes Road near the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road, said he had an unofficial total of 112 deer checked in on the Island this year, down from the 126 recorded last year.
Jason Zimmer, MassWildlife southeast district supervisor, said Island hunters had checked in about 200 deer at the state forest checking station in the first week of the shotgun season. Although that number was down from last year, he said unseasonably warm weather with temperatures in the 60s likely affected the deer and the hunting effort.
The Wampanoag natural resources department, which runs a checking station in Aquinnah, checked in 122 deer in the first week of shotgun season compared with 134 in 2005.
As of Wednesday morning of this week Mr. Zimmer had checked in a total of 12 deer. The tribe had checked in none.
In 2005 Vineyard shotgun hunters checked in a total of 346 deer. By contrast, in the 2004 season Vineyard shotgunners accounted for 448 deer. In 2003 the number was 423. Island hunters are keenly interested in what the numbers will be for the two-week season and whether the added pressure will affect hunting opportunities.