State considers extended deer hunting season for archers


The Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board is considering opening the deer season two weeks early for archers in Eastern Massachusetts.

To gauge support for the change, the board has scheduled a public hearing on March 7, 2018, at 7 pm at the MassWildlife Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Rd., in Westborough.
The current archery deer season in Massachusetts opens six weeks before Thanksgiving, and closes the Saturday after the holiday. The proposed change would open the archery season, in Wildlife Management Zones 10-14, eight weeks before Thanksgiving. Dukes County is Wildlife Management Zone 13.

Deer densities in Massachusetts range from about 10 to 15 deer per square mile in northwestern Massachusetts to 50 per square mile on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Last January, MV Tick-Borne Illness Prevention Program biologist Dick Johnson went before boards of selectmen to float the idea of extending the season for two weeks in January. Hunters strongly objected, saying it would draw hunters from off-Island, and that hunting in January is unsporting, since many does would be pregnant and deer would be hunkered down for the winter. Island huntsmen lobbied for an earlier, not later, archery season.

The Fisheries and Wildlife board will accept written public comment on the proposal at any time prior to the public hearing, and for an additional two weeks after the hearing. Written and oral comments are accepted at the public hearing. Written comments can be mailed to: Chairman, Fisheries and Wildlife Board, c/o MassWildlife Director, Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, 1 Rabbit Hill Rd., Westborough, MA 01581

Public comments by email may be sent to, Attn: Fisheries & Wildlife Board.

Deer harvest up in 2017
It was a bang-up year for deer hunters in Massachusetts. Preliminary data released by MassWildlife show a record high 13,220 deer were culled. Archery and primitive firearms seasons had record harvests.
There were slightly more deer taken during archery season — 5,191 — than in shotgun season — 5,162. Hunters took 2,754 during primitive firearms season.

There were 794 deer checked in on Martha’s Vineyard, up from 767 last year, an increase of roughly 4 percent.

A new program started by Dick Johnson in 2017 to pair hunters — primarily archers — with private landowners has shown promise. More than 20 landowners were matched with hunters, and more than 100 acres of land were opened to hunting.

“The opening of lands to hunting has created more opportunities for hunters to be successful, especially in groups,” Bret Stearns, natural resources director for the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), told The Times. Mr. Stearns is also a certified hunting safety instructor.

Landowners interested in reducing deer and ticks on their property for the 2018 hunting season can contact Dick Johnson at or 508-693-1893.