Deer Season During Covid

NEK-Covid cases in the state of Vermont are starting to rise as deer hunting season is just right around the corner. With the season starting soon, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department wanted to create a safer way for hunters to register their deer at home.

Vermont's Fish and Wildlife has been talking about online harvest reporting for quite some time now. The Department knows that this method has proven successful in other states.

This new way of registering the animals hunters hunt for, has also given other Fish and Wildlife Departments the opportunity to collect more data about the animals that live in the area.

"We've actually been talking about online harvest reporting of big game animals for a number of years. It's something that is fairly common in a number of states, I know states like Pennsylvania, New York. What they have actually seen, it's a way they can have better data, it's also a little more convenient for a hunter," Adam Miller, Wildlife Program Manager says.

Miller says that the Department was unsure of using the online harvesting method due to the fact that it's almost like a tradition for hunters to hunt and then gather at reporting stations.

The Department did not want to take that experience away from hunters. Unfortunately the pandemic started, and the department did not want to be apart of encouraging the risks of social gatherings.

"We were in the process of looking into online harvest reporting of different game animals, deer being one of them. Then covid hit, which prompted us to fast track some of this work. Just because of the fact that, when folks are going to a big game check station it's actually kind of a tradition in Vermont," Miller goes on to say.

Miller explains that he is very confident in this method, as they have done this online harvest reporting before earlier in the year. Specifically for turkeys, when covid hit the state the first time, the department had to do the same thing due to the fact it was turkey season.

Miller says that many hunters were very honest and upfront about their online reporting. He also shares that many hunters preferred the online harvesting method.

"We started out in the spring turkey hunting season, which occurs in the month of May. That was around the time the pandemic really started kicking up. So we instituted in that first month of May, online harvest reporting for the spring turkey hunt. That went relatively well, a lot of hunters were really really happy with that. As far as it's a different opportunity for them."

Miller also shares that during the first trial of online harvesting reporting, there were a significant amount of people that hunted more. Because they were able to salvage that meat they collected at a faster rate because they reported online.

"If they would have to harvest an animal, or harvest that turkey first thing in the morning. Then they'd have to spend the rest of their morning taking that turkey to a big game reporting station and check it in. It takes a lot of time, so what they found is with online harvest reporting, they can actually go out, harvest that turkey, take a picture of it, submit it right there online," Miller said.

The Department is not sure they will continue the online harvesting after the pandemic ends. Miller says that when it comes to turkey hunting that since it was very successful, they will continue that online harvest reporting.

For deer, they want to see how this trial goes. From the results they collect, they will make the final decision to continue, or stop the deer reporting online.

"Hoping it works out great, we plan for the worst, and hope for the best. I think we have done a lot of work putting into, you know, testing our programs. Making sure it works for hunters, we've learned a lot when we did the online turkey harvest reporting," Miller goes on to say.

Miller wants to also recommend to hunters this new program they have called, "Deer Tooth Collection." This program can be found on the Departments home page, this program will ask hunters to take a front bottom incisor and give it to the department for testing.

"We take that tooth, we submit it to a specialized lab. Where they basically create a cross section for that tooth, and count the rings on that tooth. Just like the ring on a tree, that's how they can age their deer."

These results give the department a bunch of results about the deer's biological make. As well as giving them results on population growth, the department asks all hunters to consider this.

As this helps them learn more about Vermont's wildlife. For any more information on how to send in a tooth, or register a deer online, you can go to the Departments home page.