F&W seeks public input on deer herd
By Dennis Jensen
Staff Writer | February 03,2013
By DENNIS JENSEN
Adam Murkowski discusses the deer management plan at the Edward Kehoe Conservation Camp in Castleton last week.
CASTLETON — When Adam Murkowski took over as the deer team leader for the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department last March, some folks in the deer hunting community were holding their breath.
Would Murkowski, a Wisconsin native and an avid deer hunter, simply push a Fish & Wildlife agenda or would he take an active role in listening to the wants and needs of Vermont deer hunters?
A group of about 50 deer hunters got their answer last week at the first of a series of public deer meetings set for the coming months.
Murkowski unveiled the department’s Comprehensive Deer Management Review Plan on Wednesday night at the Edward Kehoe Conservation Camp, a plan that calls for directly involving deer hunters in the future planning of deer seasons and deer management in the coming years.
Murkowski told the group that the management plan calls for “your thoughts and opinions on how things are” concerning the Vermont deer herd. “That input is going to be used in this process,” he said.
Part of that input involves a deer hunter survey, a detailed questionnaire that seeks to determine hunter satisfaction and perceptions concerning deer hunting and deer regulations.
At the meeting, the four-page survey was passed out and those in attendance were asked to fill it out.
Beginning in March, Murkowski said he wants to form three groups of deer hunters “big enough to represent the various regions, but small enough to have in-depth conversations” about a deer management program.
Murkowski said he hopes to attract six to 10 volunteers for three “regional working groups” that would review all of the data from deer hunter surveys and offer input to Fish & Wildlife on how Vermont can best structure hunting seasons and harvest strategies across the various regions.
The three regional groups would include wildlife management areas in the state’s western foothills and lake plains, the eastern foothills and east central areas and the mountains and the Northeast Kingdom.
After his presentation, Murkowski asked those assembled to break down into six groups for about 30 minutes of discussing three main questions, issued by the department. They were to talk among themselves about what they had heard at the meeting earlier and what that meant, how better to improve the Vermont deer herd and deer herd management and questions for Murkowski after the groups broke up.
Many of the concerns that came out of the group discussions have been voiced time and again at past deer meetings.
They ran the gamut, from not enough deer in the woods, to too much posted land, the lack of logging to open up new habitat on state and federal lands, too many coyotes, not enough deer food in the woods, a lack of suitable habitat, the lack of hunters in the woods during deer season, a return to legal deer baiting, dropping the legal limit of deer per season to two instead of the current three-deer bag limit, removing the spiked buck moratorium and extending the antler restriction to 3 points on one side, instead of the current rule.
Markowski said that public meetings will continue into May and interested hunters could go to the Fish & Wildlife Web site for more information on the deer plan at www.vtfishandwildlife.com.
One of the more interesting complaints was voiced by several in attendance, that youth hunters should be allowed to take only one deer, then be required to follow the same regulations as everyone else. Currently, youth hunters, 15 or younger, can participate in the season on multiple occasions.
But Markowski had an interesting response to those comments, noting particularly how many gray beards were in attendance.
“If you look around this room, you won’t see the next generation of deer hunters,” he said.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board Chairman Brian Ames told the group that the board will be keenly interested in all feedback from deer hunters around the state. And deer hunters should be prepared to discuss all the options that are out there, he said.
“I think that everything should be on the table,” he said.