Vermont eyes deer urine ban, expand crossbow use

Montpelier, Vt. — Neighboring Vermont is poised to prohibit the use of deer urine-based attractants by the 2016 hunting season, and to allow crossbows within the state’s archery season this fall.

The proposed changes to Vermont deer hunting regulations received an initial vote by the state’s Fish and Wildlife Board last month. A series of public hearings, follow-up board meetings and two more board votes will take place this year before any changes can be adopted. 

The changes, a mixture of department proposals and board-introduced motions, came on the heels of “a comprehensive deer management study and two years of public involvement, including meetings of regional working groups,” fish and wildlife officials said.

Three of the proposed changes would take effect this year:

• the first part of archery deer season would be lengthened by 10 days – seven days prior to the existing season (which ran from Oct. 3-25 last year) and three days after.  
• crossbows would be legalized for use whenever a regular bow and arrow could be used.  
• archery and muzzleloader season limits would be reduced from three to two deer. 

“After receiving a number of petitions and requests to make a wide variety of changes to the current seasons and regulations, the Fish & Wildlife Department and the board began in early 2013 to take a comprehensive look at all of the rules around deer hunting,” Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Louis Porter said. 

He called the proposals “a reasonable and thoughtful set of proposed changes” that came after discussions within the department “and with a working group made up of dedicated and experienced deer hunters. We will continue to discuss these options with the board and the public as we strive to always improve how we manage deer, deer habitat and to ensure deer hunting opportunities continue.”

If passed, a prohibition on the possession and use of deer urine-based lures and other deer fluids while deer hunting would be effective in 2016. The move is being considered as a means of avoiding the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) into Vermont. 

“Many of the chronic wasting disease outbreaks in other states have started in captive deer facilities exactly like the ones used to produce commercial deer urine lures,” said deer biologist Adam Murkowski.

“Because CWD can be spread through deer urine, the Fish & Wildlife Board and the department are working to protect Vermont’s deer herd from this potentially devastating disease by prohibiting the use of natural deer urine lures in Vermont.” 

If the 2015 changes are approved, the archery season would begin on the fourth Saturday in September and end the fourth Wednesday in October. The second part of archery season would remain the same – nine days, beginning the Saturday after the end of the November deer season. 

The lengths of youth deer season, November rifle season and muzzleloader season would remain unchanged. 

The proposed regulation changes come after the Fish & Wildlife Department surveyed hunters during the past two years.  One survey showed 68 percent of hunters are generally satisfied with Vermont deer hunting, “indicating that a major overhaul of deer hunting regulations is not needed at this time,” officials said.

The department is also planning to conduct a three-year evaluation of the effects of the proposed regulation changes, including gathering more data on the current antler point restriction of at least one antler having two or more points. 

“Preliminary numbers from 2014 hunting seasons compared to an average of the previous three years reflect a stable deer population in the state,” Murkowski said.  

Vermont hunters last season killed 13,590 whitetails – 3,143 in archery season, 1,652 during the youth weekend, 6,140 in the rifle season and 2,655 during muzzleloader season.” 

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