Rhode Island hunters harvested 2,221 deer during the 2012-2013 season, compared to 2,360 in the 2011-12 season. Hunters enjoyed a 26 percent success rate; archers harvested 690 deer statewide while gun hunters harvest 1,531 deer. The overall deer population is holding steady at about 15,000.
Unlike Midwestern deer, whitetails in Rhode Island have been relatively free of disease. This fall should be another excellent year for deer hunters.
“There is a shortage of mast this fall, so deer should be on the move looking for food,” said Brian Tefft, a certified wildlife biologist with the Rhode Island Division of Fish and Wildlife.
The state did away with either sex deer permits this year. They will now be sold as antlered deer or antlerless deer permits. Hunters must have the appropriate deer tag in their possession to legally harvest any deer.
In addition, all deer hunters must check their deer at a check station during the first four days of the muzzleloader season (Nov. 7-10). Another regulation change is that crossbows are now approved for use by all hunters during archery season (Sept. 15 – Jan. 31). Finally, bag limits for antlered deer is three statewide, except on Prudence Island (Zone 3), where only one antlered deer may be harvested.
Although small in size, Rhode Island has nearly 50,000 acres open to public deer hunting. The largest tracts are in the Arcadia, Big River and Great Swamp Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). The George Washington WMA in the North regularly grows bucks pushing 200+ lbs. Look for one of them wherever the state has cut back the forest, providing whitetails with early successional browse.