• Spikehorn ban has run course
    BY Dennis Jensen
    STAFF WRITER | September 15,2013
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    Dennis Jensen Photo

    Paul Jensen of Chestertown, N.Y., is shown with the spiked buck he shot in Waddington, N.Y., in 2010. Jensen is the furbearer biologist with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation out of Warrensburg. His work covers the Adirondack Region.
    If you are a deer hunter and statistics matter to you, take a glimpse at the box next to this column. It gives a very clear picture of just how far Vermont has sunk, over the past 20 years, during the firearms buck season.

    Take the past eight years, for instance. With a low of 3,944 in 2005 and a high of 7,295 in 2008, the buck kill has averaged around 6,000 animals, a pathetic number for a state that should be realizing a robust buck kill, year-in, year-out.

    While winter kill certainly played a part in a decline in the buck kill in the earlier years of the last decade, the milder weather over the past several years has not resulted in what should have been significantly greater buck kill numbers.

    Here’s another glaring factor that the so-called quality deer management people ought to chew on: We were told, repeatedly that, after a few years of the spikehorn moratorium, of letting those spiked bucks grow another season, that the buck kill would gradually increase.

    It ain’t happened, Bubba.

    All the spikehorn ban accomplished was to give the very vocal folks in the Vermont hunting community — many of whom have access to lots of private land — to get to take those bigger, heavier deer.

    The rest of us slobs? Well, you’re just going to have to go without the opportunity to put some venison in your freezer, via a spiked buck.

    Think about it: Over the last decade, with eight years dedicated to a spikehorn ban, Vermont deer hunters never killed more than 7,295 bucks. Even worse, most of the decade saw rifle kills that plunged as low as 3,944 in 2005.

    And here’s a real eye-popper as far as data goes: The average buck kill over the past 10 years has been a dismal 6,114 deer.

    Stack that next to the years 1993 to 2000 — not that long ago — when the buck kill exceeded 10,000 animals in six of eight years.

    It doesn’t take a genius to come to the realization that the spikehorn ban has been a great big bust.

    When the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department bowed to the demands of the folks who whined about “quality deer hunting” in 2005, it basically turned its back on a tradition — still in effect, mind you, in neighboring states like New York and New Hampshire — of allowing spiked bucks to be taken during the firearms season.

    But the spikehorn ban’s days may be coming to an end. The data shows that the spikehorn ban did not really improve the quality of deer hunting in Vermont. All it did was exclude a perfectly legitimate animal from the bag limit.

    All for the ego gratification of people who just had to have heavier deer with bigger antlers. So that meant fewer deer to go around? No problem, well not for us “quality” folks, that is.

    My sense is that, in perhaps a year or two, the spikehorn ban will become a thing of the past, an experiment that simply did not work.

    This point of view on my part will certainly generate more than a little nasty mail. And that’s OK by me. The fact of the matter is this: Unlike a good number of hunters in the Green Mountain State, I have the opportunity to hunt in New York every fall, as well as in Maine and New Hampshire.

    The spikehorn ban never put a real dent in my ability to store venison in the freezer.

    What always troubled me about the spikehorn ban is that it punished the little guy, the working man, who often gets only weekends and perhaps Thanksgiving to hunt deer. It took away, easily, about 25 percent of the buck kill from those folks who really need to put up some venison for their families.

    They weren’t concerned about big bucks or big antlers. They just wanted to help cut the grocery bill with some prime venison.

    Before the ban, roughly one in every 10 deer hunters managed to tag a buck every November. After the ban, maybe one in every 13 or 14 deer hunters saw success. That’s a hell of a drop.

    The spikehorn ban didn’t seem to make sense before it was implemented; now, after eight years, it clearly never made sense.

    It’s time to put an end to the nonsense and put spiked bucks back on the list of legal game.

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