Comprehensive Guide to Big Game Hunting in Vermont
Definition of Big Game
In Vermont, the term "big game" encompasses a variety of species known for their size and hunting significance. This includes deer, bear, moose, wild turkey, caribou, elk, and anadromous Atlantic salmon (specifically within the Connecticut River Basin).
Immediately upon taking a big game animal, it must be tagged. This tag, which can be either paper or durable, must be affixed to the carcass in a visible location and remain there during transportation and until the animal is processed for consumption. The tag should include the name or Conservation ID number of the hunter.
Reporting the harvest of big game is mandatory within 48 hours. The carcass must be presented to the nearest game warden, an official Fish & Wildlife Department Reporting Station, or a designated individual. For deer and bear, field dressing prior to reporting is required. Additionally, it's prohibited to transport any big game carcass out of state without prior reporting. In certain cases, hunters may need to lead a warden to the site of the kill.
For reporting turkeys, archery season deer, and muzzleloader season deer, an online option is available at Vermont Fish & Wildlife's website, or they can be reported at an official station. Deer taken during the Youth, Novice, and Regular November seasons must be reported at an official station.
Biological Information Collection
Collecting biological data from harvested big game is crucial for management and conservation. Hunters are encouraged to provide detailed information to assist in assessing population health and size.
Transporting illegally taken big game or during closed seasons is prohibited. While transporting deer, visibility is not required. It's also illegal to transport game taken by another person unless accompanied by the individual who harvested the game. Transporting parts of big game is allowed only if they are properly labeled with the hunter's details.
Importing Big Game
For legally transporting and possessing big game taken from other states or countries, compliance with tagging and labeling requirements is mandatory. This includes keeping the original tag and labeling each meat package with specific details. Importation of deer or elk from areas with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) or from captive hunt areas/farms is subject to strict regulations.
Illegal Means of Taking
Certain methods of hunting big game are prohibited, including baiting, using snares or traps, salt licks, artificial lighting, or dogs (with specific exceptions for black bear and wild turkey).
Legally harvested big game can be possessed during and reasonably after the open season. Possessing big game taken by illegal means or out of season is strictly prohibited. However, parts of legally harvested game can be stored indefinitely under appropriate conditions.
Optional Vermont Big Game Tag
Vermont offers an Optional Big Game Tag as a durable alternative to paper tags. This tag is available for free and can be used for deer, bear, turkeys, or moose. Hunters must record their Conservation ID number on the tag, and qualifying landowners should write “landowner” in the designated space. The standard paper tag provided with a license remains a valid option.