Rhode Island Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast

Rhode Island estimates its deer herd at 15,000 strong -- and fit.

"We have healthy deer and they are CWD [chronic wasting disease] free," said Brian C. Tefft, Certified Wildlife Biologist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. "Hunters have a long and liberal season, necessary to maintain deer density at sustainable levels and protect from habitat damage caused by over-population. We are monitoring coyote related mortality of fawns and its impact on the herd, as this may require future adjustments in seasons or bag limits."

As with most states along the Eastern Seaboard, Rhode Island deals with the conflict of lots of deer in suburban areas where hunting isn't always that easy to accomplish.

"Of the two mainland zones, Zone 1 is increasing slightly [in deer numbers] in urban areas restricted to hunting, and Zone 2 is stable at this time," Tefft notes. "We also have two island zones, Block Island and Prudence Island. In both cases deer populations exceed the desired density. However, both these island zones have very active hunting programs which are keeping growth in check, with an emphasis on population reduction."

Drought and its effects on vegetations are not really issues here. But the acorn crop is definitely an issue.

"The biggest variable is the fall acorn crop, a vital food source for deer," Tefft said. "In 2011 we had a complete failure of the acorn crop, so we are hoping for better production in 2012. There are localized areas where populations exceed desired density and over-browsing impacts are evident."

Fortunately, the recent winter was without much snow or frigid temperatures so deer didn't miss the loss of this important mast crop like they would have in a severe winter.

The peak of the Rhode Island deer rut usually falls between November 5 and 20.

Big bucks are produced in many areas of the state," Tefft adds. "However, Providence County in northern Rhode Island seems to produce some of the better trophy animals."

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.