Deer Hunting in Vermont
Overview of Deer Hunting in Vermont
Vermont is renowned for its high-quality deer hunting opportunities, thanks to a combination of factors that make it an attractive destination for hunters.
Favorable Hunting Conditions
- Rural Landscape: Vermont's predominantly rural terrain provides an ideal habitat for deer.
- Public and Private Lands: There is an abundance of both public and private lands open to hunting, offering a variety of settings for hunters.
- Diverse Hunting Methods: The state's regulations allow deer hunting with archery, rifle, and muzzleloader, catering to different hunting preferences and skills.
Deer Populations and Hunting Locations
- Deer Densities: The greatest concentrations of deer are found in the northwest and southwest corners of the state, as well as along the Connecticut River.
- Varied Terrain: For hunters seeking more remote and challenging environments, the high elevation mountains running north to south, and the northeastern quarter of the state offer less dense deer populations but more expansive wilderness.
Hunting Regulations and Seasons
- Annual Limit: Vermont enforces a four-deer annual limit, with only one allowed to be a legal buck.
- Expanded Archery Opportunities: The state has lengthened the archery season and permitted the use of crossbows. Hunters also have the option to obtain multiple archery licenses.
- Youth and Novice Hunts: Special hunting opportunities are available for youth and novice hunters, typically scheduled before the regular 16-day November deer season.
- Muzzleloader Seasons: The muzzleloader season is held in December, with an additional four-day antlerless deer season (requiring permits) potentially scheduled 16 days prior to the regular November season.
- Regulation Updates: Hunters are advised to regularly check the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website for the latest hunting regulations and updates. This ensures compliance with current rules and maximizes hunting success and safety.
Deer Hunting Regulations in Vermont
Antlerless Deer Harvest Opportunities
- Annual Determination: The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board annually decides on the harvest opportunities for antlerless deer in each Wildlife Management Unit (WMU). This decision is made after public notices and hearings in early summer.
- Seasonal Regulations: The Board specifies whether antlerless deer can be hunted during archery, novice, youth, and muzzleloader seasons, and determines the availability of muzzleloader antlerless permits via lottery.
Annual Deer Limit
- Four Deer Maximum: Hunters are allowed to take a maximum of four deer per calendar year.
- Legal Buck Limit: Only one of the four deer may be a legal buck.
- Youth and Novice Hunters: These hunters are permitted to take two legal bucks within their annual limit, with one buck taken during the youth or novice season.
- Sunrise to Sunset: Deer hunting is permitted from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
- Sunset/Sunrise Table Reference: Hunters should refer to a Sunset/Sunrise Table for precise timing.
- Immediate Tagging Required: Once a deer is taken, it must be tagged immediately.
- Tag Visibility and Duration: The tag should be placed openly on the carcass and remain there until the carcass is processed for consumption.
Staying Informed and Compliant
- Regular Updates: Hunters should regularly check the Vermont Fish & Wildlife website for the latest regulations, including updates on antlerless deer harvest opportunities and other important hunting information.
- Importance of Following Regulations: Adhering to these regulations ensures sustainable deer populations and promotes ethical hunting practices.
Essential Reporting Procedures
In Vermont, hunters are required to report any deer taken within a 48-hour period. This report can be made to the nearest game warden, an official Fish & Wildlife Department Reporting Station, or a person appointed by the commissioner for this purpose. The carcass must be shown during this report. There are specific stipulations based on the hunting season:
- Archery and Muzzleloader Seasons: Hunters can report their deer online at Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's website or at an official reporting station.
- Youth, Novice, and Regular November Seasons: These deer must be reported at an official reporting station.
A deer must be field dressed before the report. In certain cases, a hunter may be asked to lead a warden to the site of the kill. It is also important to note that transporting a deer carcass out of state without prior reporting is prohibited.
Contributing to Deer Management
Deer hunters play a vital role in managing Vermont's deer population. They can assist by:
- Completing the annual regular November season hunter effort surveys.
- Reporting their deer at select biological check stations during specific weekends in the youth and regular November season.
- Collecting a tooth from their deer during the regular November season.
This participation helps biologists gather crucial data such as age, antler characteristics, and overall health of the deer population.
Legal Transport of Deer
Tagged deer can be transported under the following conditions:
- During Open Season: Transport is allowed during the open season and for 20 days following its close.
- By Authorized Persons: Transport is legal if done by the person who shot the deer, someone accompanying them, or a person holding a mentored hunting license without the fully licensed adult hunter.
- Using Common Carriers: When using a shipping company, the deer must be tagged with details like sender and receiver names, shipping station, and destination.
The deer tag must be securely attached to the carcass during transport. If transporting deer parts, they must be labeled with the name and address of the person who killed the deer.
Visibility During Transport
It's important to note that deer do not need to be visible when being transported. However, adherence to all regulations is crucial.
Prohibition of Baiting in Deer Hunting
In Vermont, the use of bait for hunting or taking any wild animal during deer hunting seasons is strictly illegal. This rule applies with one exception: trappers may use bait for capturing furbearers. Bait is defined as any substance—animal, vegetable, fruit, or mineral—used with the intention of attracting wildlife.
Legal Use of Artificial Scents and Lures
While the use of baits is prohibited, hunters are permitted to use artificial scents and lures. However, these must not be consumable through eating or licking. Importantly, deer lures containing any form of cervid (deer family) bodily fluids, such as urine, blood, gland oil, feces, etc., are prohibited in Vermont.
Exceptions to Baiting
The law outlines four specific circumstances that are not considered as baiting:
- Incidental Feeding in Livestock Operations: This includes the unintentional feeding of wildlife within areas where livestock are actively maintained.
- Standing Crops and Food Plots: Crops planted and left as food plots for wildlife are exempt from the baiting prohibition.
- Resultant Scattering from Agricultural Practices: Grain or feed dispersed as a direct result of standard agricultural activities, gardening, soil stabilization, or logging practices is not classified as baiting.
- Natural Deposit of Vegetation or Food/Seed: Naturally occurring vegetation or seeds that fall or are deposited in an area are not considered bait.
Restrictions on Feeding Deer
Feeding wild deer in Vermont is illegal, with specific exceptions:
- Under License or Permit: Feeding is permissible if authorized by a Fish & Wildlife license or permit for reasons like scientific research, wildlife damage mitigation, nuisance problems, or wildlife population control.
- Agricultural Practices: Planting, cultivating, or harvesting crops associated with agricultural practices, including wildlife food plots, is allowed.
Ban on Sale of Deer Feed
According to Vermont statute 6 V.S.A. Section 324 (d), the distribution or sale of any commercial feed product labeled as bait or feed for white-tailed deer is illegal in the state. This regulation aims to prevent practices that could artificially alter deer behavior or population dynamics.
It is illegal to take a deer that is swimming in any lake, pond, river or other body of water.
Definitions for Vermont Deer Hunting Seasons
Legal Buck Criteria
The definition of a legal buck varies depending on the Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) in Vermont. It's crucial for hunters to understand these distinctions to ensure lawful hunting.
- WMUs C, D1, D2, E1, E2, G, I, L, M, P, and Q: In these units, a legal buck is identified as any deer that possesses at least one antler that is three inches or more in length.
- WMUs A, B, F1, F2, H, J1, J2, K, N, and O: In these units, a legal buck is defined as any deer with at least one antler that has two or more antler points, each at least one inch in length or longer.
Understanding "Point" in Deer Antlers
- Definition of a Point: A point on a deer's antler is a projection that measures at least one inch from its base at the main beam to its tip. This definition is critical in determining whether a buck meets the legal requirements for hunting in certain WMUs.
- Main Beam Breakage: If the main beam of the antler is broken, it is still counted as a point, irrespective of its length. This consideration is essential for correctly identifying legal bucks.
- Definition: Antlerless deer are defined as those deer that either lack antlers entirely or possess antlers that are less than three inches in length. This category typically includes does (female deer) and young bucks whose antlers haven't developed beyond the specified length.
Vermont Archery Deer Season Regulations 2024
Archery Deer Season Dates
- Season Period: October 1 – November 15 & December 2 – 15, 2024.
- Closure During Regular November Season: Note that archery season is closed during this period.
- Mandatory Archery License/Tag: To hunt deer with a bow and arrow or crossbow during the archery season, a specific archery license/tag is required.
- Additional Hunting License: Apart from the archery license, hunters must also have a standard hunting or a combination hunting and fishing license. However, nonresidents can opt for an archery-only deer license.
- Buck Limitation: Hunters can take one legal buck during the archery season, ensuring not to exceed the annual state limit.
- Antlerless Deer: Check Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s website in August to confirm which Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) permit antlerless deer hunting during the archery season. In open WMUs, up to 4 deer can be taken with 4 archery licenses.
- Equipment Regulations: Deer must be hunted using a bow and arrow or crossbow. The arrowhead must be at least 7/8 of an inch wide with two or more cutting edges.
- Carrying Firearms: It is illegal to carry a rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader while hunting during the archery deer season.
- Use of Firearms: While hunters may possess a pistol or revolver during archery hunting, these firearms cannot be used to take or dispatch the deer.
- General Use: Crossbows are permissible for hunting game typically hunted with bow and arrow.
- Transportation Regulations: Unless uncocked, transporting a crossbow in or on motor vehicles (including motorboats, airplanes, snowmobiles, or any vehicle powered or towed by a motor-propelled vehicle) is illegal.
After-Hours Deer Recovery
- Using Licensed Dog Trackers: For pursuing and recovering a wounded deer after legal shooting hours, contact a licensed leashed dog tracker.
- State Game Warden Permission: Alternatively, hunters must obtain permission from the state game warden by calling the nearest state police office, providing the location and situation.
- Tagging and Reporting: Any deer recovered must be appropriately tagged, reported, and exhibited to the nearest game warden.
Vermont Youth Deer Weekend
Eligibility and Licensing
Vermont celebrates its annual Youth Deer Weekend on October 26 – 27, 2024, a special hunting occasion dedicated to young enthusiasts. This event occurs on the Saturday and Sunday, three weeks prior to the commencement of the regular November deer hunting season.
Young hunters, aged 15 or younger as of the Youth Deer Weekend, are eligible to participate. A mandatory prerequisite for these young hunters is the successful completion of a hunter education course. Upon course completion, they must acquire a free youth deer hunting tag specifically for this season. Additionally, a Vermont youth hunting license is required, which can be obtained at a licensed agent. To validate the process, proof of the completed hunter education course or a previously held valid hunting license is necessary. Importantly, the youth hunter’s parent or guardian must sign the hunting license application, and this must be done in the presence of the license agent.
Hunting Accompaniment and Supervision
A distinctive rule for Youth Deer Weekend is the required accompaniment of the youth hunter by an unarmed adult. This adult, aged over 18, must possess a valid Vermont hunting license. Each adult is restricted to accompanying no more than two youth hunters simultaneously. Crucial to this accompaniment is direct control and supervision. This includes unassisted visibility and communication with the youth hunter, barring the use of devices like radios or binoculars, except for essential medical aids like hearing aids or eyeglasses.
Landowner Permission and Legal Compliance
Another significant aspect is the legal requirement for landowner permission when hunting on private land with a youth deer tag. All game laws and regulations applicable in Vermont remain in force during the Youth Deer Weekend. This encompasses the prohibition of baiting and road hunting. Notably, landowners are not exempt from the tag purchase requirement for hunting on their own property during youth weekends.
Tag Validity and Penalties
The Vermont youth deer hunting tag, issued for the Youth Deer Weekend, is valid for the taking of one deer, adhering to the annually announced Fish & Wildlife Board regulations. A critical legal stipulation is the doubling of fines for any violations occurring during the Youth Deer Weekend. The onus of the fine falls on the licensed adult responsible for the youth hunter.
Novice Deer Hunting Weekend in Vermont
Overview and Dates
The Novice Deer Hunting Weekend in Vermont, scheduled for October 26 – 27, 2024, aligns with the Youth Deer Weekend. This event specifically caters to novice hunters, defined as individuals who have acquired their first hunting license within the past 12 months and are aged 16 or older.
Eligibility and Licensing Requirements
To partake in the Novice Deer Hunt, eligible individuals must possess a valid Vermont hunting license. Compliance with the youth deer season's regulations is imperative, and novices must obtain a free novice deer tag to participate in the hunt.
Accompaniment and Supervision
A key regulation for novice hunters is the requirement to be accompanied by an unarmed adult who holds a valid Vermont hunting license and is at least 18 years old. Each accompanying adult is limited to supervising no more than two novice hunters at a time. The term "accompany" in this context denotes direct control and supervision, ensuring visibility and unassisted communication with the novice hunter. The use of artificial devices for communication or visibility, like radios or binoculars, is prohibited, except for essential medical devices like hearing aids or eyeglasses.
Landowner Permission and Compliance
Novice hunters are obligated to seek permission from landowners or occupants before hunting on private property. This rule is strictly enforced to respect property rights and maintain ethical hunting practices.
Hunting Limits and Regulations
During the Novice Deer Hunting Weekend, a novice hunter is permitted to harvest one legal buck. However, this limit may be adjusted if the Fish & Wildlife Board authorizes the taking of antlerless deer during the youth hunting weekend. This provision allows flexibility in deer management and aligns with the conservation goals of Vermont’s hunting regulations.
Muzzleloader Antlerless Deer Season in Vermont
The Muzzleloader Antlerless Deer Season in Vermont is a special hunting period designated for hunters using muzzleloader firearms. This season is contingent on the availability of antlerless permits. Scheduled to span four consecutive days, it begins on the Thursday that falls 16 days before the opening of the regular November deer season. For the year 2024, this period is from October 31 to November 3. Hunters should check the official Vermont wildlife website in June for the announcement and confirmation of this season.
Licensing and Permit Requirements
Participation in the Muzzleloader Antlerless Deer Season requires hunters to have two essential documents: a muzzleloader license and an antlerless permit. The muzzleloader license is specific to hunters using this type of firearm, while the antlerless permit is a special authorization to harvest deer without antlers, typically does or young bucks.
Season Flexibility and Permit Usage
A significant aspect of the Muzzleloader Antlerless Deer Season is the flexibility regarding the use of the antlerless permit. If the 4-day season is confirmed, hunters have the option to use their antlerless permit either during this specific 4-day period or in the regular muzzleloader deer season. This provision allows hunters to plan and utilize their permits in a manner that best suits their hunting schedule and preferences.
Regular November Deer Season in Vermont
Duration and Dates
Vermont's Regular November Deer Season is a significant period for deer hunting enthusiasts. In 2024, this season is slated to run from November 16 to December 1, offering hunters ample opportunity to engage in deer hunting across the state.
The regulations for this season stipulate specific limits on deer harvesting:
- Buck Limit: Hunters are permitted to take one legal buck from any region within the state.
- Annual Deer Limit: In all deer hunting seasons combined, including the Regular November Deer Season, a hunter may not harvest more than four white-tailed deer in a year. Importantly, of these four deer, only one may be a legal buck. This regulation ensures a balanced approach to deer population management and conservation.
Permitted Hunting Methods
A diverse range of hunting methods are authorized for the Regular November Deer Season, accommodating different preferences and skills of hunters. These methods include:
- Rifle: A commonly used firearm for deer hunting, offering accuracy at longer distances.
- Shotgun: Effective for hunting in areas with denser vegetation or for hunters preferring a closer range.
- Muzzleloader: A traditional hunting firearm, popular for its historical significance and unique hunting experience.
- Handgun: Provides a challenging hunting method for more experienced hunters.
- Bow and Arrow: A traditional and skilled form of hunting, requiring stealth and precision.
- Crossbow: Offers a blend of traditional archery and modern technology, suitable for a variety of hunters.
Muzzleloader Deer Season in Vermont
The Muzzleloader Deer Season in Vermont is set to take place from December 7 to December 15, 2024. This period provides a unique hunting experience specifically for muzzleloader enthusiasts.
To participate in this season, hunters are required to have two key licenses:
- Muzzleloader License: Specifically for those using muzzleloader firearms.
- General Hunting License: A standard requirement for all types of hunting in Vermont.
The season comes with specific limitations on deer harvesting:
- Buck Limit: Hunters are allowed to take one legal buck from anywhere in the state.
- Antlerless Deer: With a department-issued antlerless permit, hunters may also harvest an antlerless deer within the designated Wildlife Management Unit (WMU).
Muzzleloading Firearm Specifications
Understanding the correct specifications for muzzleloaders is crucial:
- Firearm Type: Either a single-shot, single-barrel rifle or smoothbore firearm, with a minimum barrel length of 20 inches designed for shoulder firing, or a single-shot pistol with a minimum barrel length of 10 inches.
- Loading Method: The firearm must be incapable of being loaded from the breach without tools.
- Bore Diameter: A minimum of 0.43 inches.
- Ignition System: Acceptable systems include traditional or modern flintlock, caplock, matchlock, in-line, or wheellock styles.
Ammunition for muzzleloaders is specifically defined:
- Propellant: Black powder or another suitable non-smokeless propellant.
- Projectile: A single ball or bullet.
Loaded Muzzleloader Definition
For safety and regulatory purposes, a muzzleloader is considered loaded when it is charged with powder and projectile and is primed or capped.
During the Muzzleloader Deer Season, there are additional provisions:
- Firearm Restriction: Hunters are only permitted to possess one single-barreled muzzleloading firearm.
- Exclusion of Other Equipment: Hunters must not possess or use any archery equipment or crossbows while hunting under a muzzleloader deer hunting license.