Deer hunting season ends on a Bambi note


The muzzleloader deer hunting season ended Friday, and with it Massachusetts’ 2010 deer hunting. It was a year in which Island hunters appear to have had mixed success.

Environmental Police Sergeant Matt Bass said he responded to a few hunting complaints and wrote no citations over the 15-day muzzleloader season. Overall, it was relatively free of problems and violations, he said.

I have no official state numbers for the black powder season, only reports from Island check stations. The numbers appear down.

John Varkonda, Manuel F. Corellus State Forest supervisor, checked in only two deer. “Like we’ve been seeing for some time,” John said by way of explanation, “the number of hunters is down.”

Steve Purcell at Larry’s in Edgartown, checked in 34 deer, far fewer than last year. “Not too many,” Steve said.

High winds may have played a role in keeping hunting activity to a minimum, he said.

Brett Stearns, director of the Wampanoag Tribe natural resources department, said his check station only saw six deer during muzzleloader.

Over the several hunting seasons for deer, the tribe checked in 70, compared with 144 in 2009. Brett said he does not know yet if the hunters went to other check stations or it was just a slow year. Steve checked in 292 deer, four fewer than in 2009.

Conversely, Joel DeRoche, an Edgartown police officer who provides mobile check services, upped his tally from 58 to 92. He thinks the uptick has more to do with word getting out about his mobile service.

Joel is a hunter and provides the service in an effort to provide the state with the most accurate count possible, something that will only benefit hunting.

For the second hunting season in a row, the Island has grown an abundance of acorns. The abundance of one of the deer’s favorite foods meant that the animals did not have to travel very far to feed and were therefore less vulnerable to hunters.

My unofficial overall count for all three seasons, and that includes 124 deer the state biologist checked during the first week of the shotgun season, is 583. By comparison, Vineyard deer hunters took a total of 628 deer during the archery, shotgun, and muzzleloader seasons in 2009.

Hunter spares one

I know of one deer not added to the tally that had a very fortunate encounter with two hunters on the second to last day of the season.

Brian Cioffi, Chilmark police chief, was hunting Thursday accompanied by an off-Island friend who had yet to shoot a deer, when he received a call from workers at the Middle Line Road housing project. A young doe had fallen into an open foundation and was unable to escape.

On the scene, Brian determined that the practical solution was to shoot the deer. But people are funny, and where one man sees steak and hamburger, another sees Bambi and Thumper.

The construction workers prevailed upon Brian to rescue the struggling animal. Brian asked the supervisor why someone hadn’t tried to get the deer out. No one was willing to go into the foundation hole.

Putting his farming background and fullback’s build to good use, Brian climbed down into the foundation and tackled the deer — “just like a sheep or a goat or a pig,” he told me matter-of-factly when I suggested that a kick could be trouble. “Get the hind legs away from them, they can’t push; and get the front legs away from them and they can’t steer.”

Handy information to keep in mind, I told him.

The deer was cuffed, so to speak.

Brian was still more inclined to think menu than Miranda, when Matt Bass arrived. The judge and jury favored an acquittal.

Brian carried the deer out of the foundation hole and released it, a moment captured on video. The doe went bounding off into the nearby woods.

I asked Brian if the story had the natural ironic ending. No, he said, he did not hear a shot or the screech of brakes.