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Massachusetts Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

August 13, 2012
Massachusetts Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast - 0

Deer abundance trends in Massachusetts have been fairly stable over the last five years, with the deer herd estimated at between 85,000 and 95,000 deer each year.

“Our deer herd is doing very well,” said David Stainbrook, deer project leader for the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife. “Based on the biological data that we collect, we have a well-balanced age and sex structure and a healthy herd. We had a very mild winter with a productive spring, so deer forage appears fine, too.”

Last year, Massachusetts hunters bagged a total of 11,154 deer, in all seasons combined. Out of that total, bowhunters took 3,765 deer, the highest deer harvest on record for the archery season.

"Archery is a vital management tool particularly in suburban areas where deer densities are higher due to limited hunting access,” Stainbrook said. And Stainbrook would like to see more bowhunting.

“We are dealing with issues of high deer numbers in some areas of eastern Massachusetts where hunter access is limited,” he said.

But suburban deer hunts here can be difficult to make a reality, given local laws, safety issues, and some anti-hunting sentiment. Interestingly, suburban deer damage has spawned the business of matching archery hunters with Massachusetts landowners. A handful of programs operate in Eastern Massachusetts where, for a fee, archery hunters are placed on private properties.

These bow hunters have to be interviewed, have all appropriate permits, and, for one of these businesses, pass a background check and archery proficiency test. Archers get a chance at deer, often some very large deer that have never been hunted, landowners get some relief from hungry deer, and the companies make some money.

Peak of the rut is usually right around Veteran’s Day, the 11th of November.

The Northeastern Regional Report
A very mild winter (which followed a generally mild winter in 2010–2011) and average-or-better amounts of spring and summer rain this year have the Northeast region looking good this fall. States like Vermont and Maine are expecting improved harvests, as the easy winters have allowed deer herds to rebound. Except for a small pocket of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Hampshire County, West Virginia, and a limited outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in west-central New Jersey, deer here have no real health issues.

While there are still many good-size deer in the Northeast, trophy antler production has eased away from here and moved into the Midwest region. The Boone and Crockett Club’s “Trophy Whitetail Production, 2005 to 2010,” for example, doesn’t list a single Northeastern state in the top 10. Pennsylvania, at number 20 (with 26 entries), is the highest-ranked state from this region.

That said, Northern states still grow big-bodied deer. “During the 2011 season, we had 124 bucks registered that, on the hoof, would have tipped the scales at more than 250 pounds,” says Vermont deer biologist Adam Murkowski.

Top Trophy Zones**
NY: Monroe, Wayne, and Suffolk counties. Comprising the eastern two-thirds of Long Island, Suffolk County produces approximately half the state’s Pope and Young records—including a 2006 buck that netted 196 2⁄8 non-typical.
NJ: Hunterdon, Monmouth, and Salem counties.
PA: Alleghany, Chester, Washington, and Beaver counties.
WV: McDowell and Wyoming counties.

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