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State eyes increase in deer hunting permits

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By CYRUS LEVESQUE

ADDISON COUNTY — A proposed increase in the number of muzzle-loading permits issued for antlerless deer will affect some parts of the state a lot more than others. In Bennington County, the number of permits issued may increase by more than six times if the current proposal remains unchanged, but the impact will probably be much smaller in Addison County.

Richard Phillips, owner of Vermont Field Sports in Middlebury, said that the proposed change hasn’t earned much attention in the Addison County area. “I haven’t heard anybody hollering about it yet in the store,” Phillips said. “I don’t think it’ll do much in Addison County, really.”

The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department Board is considering issuing almost twice as many antlerless deer permits for the coming hunting season as were issued in 2007. The 14-member board of the department gave preliminary approval to issue 22,050 permits in an April vote. Last year, the department issued only 11,050 permits for antlerless deer during the nine-day muzzleloader season.

The board met again yesterday, and the final decision on any increase will probably not be made until August, according to Claude Rainville of Lincoln, Addison County’s representative to the board. Rainville emphasized that the decision wasn’t final and there would be chances for public input. “It’s a lengthy process,” he said.

Public hearings in Lyndonville and Rutland are planned on the issue. The Rutland hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 1, at the cafeteria of the Rutland Middle School at 67 Library Ave.

The board is considering the increase to control the size of the state’s deer herd, which has apparently grown quickly in recent years. “We can’t let the deer destroy their own habitat because of overpopulation,” Rainville said.

However, that population increase is much higher in Franklin County and Bennington County than in Addison County, Rainville said, so more new permits are being issued there than here. There are also no plans to change the areas in which the permits are valid. More antlerless deer hunting has been allowed in the mountains than in the Champlain Valley because there are usually more deer in the hills, Rainville said.

In that respect, Rainville’s role as representative of Addison County to the Fish & Wildlife Board is a little unique, he said. Different hunting rules and restrictions apply in the Champlain Valley and the Green Mountains due to different types and amounts of game animals in and near the lake and further from it. “I’ve got a little bit of everything,” he said.

Local hunters had a fair amount of success in the muzzleloader deer season last fall. In all, the county’s 10 official big-game weigh stations handled 297 deer during the December and early-November muzzleloader seasons. That was an increase over the 2005 season, when local hunters killed just 189 deer during muzzleloader seasons.

The heaviest animal killed in Addison County in 2007 was a 182-pounder with an eight-point antler rack that Darrell Tucker shot in Cornwall.

Phillips pointed out that issuing 10,000 more permits doesn’t mean that 10,000 more deer will be killed. He said that he, like many, had an antlerless deer permit last year and never filled it. “They might have to give out 1,200 more permits to get 200 more deer killed,” Phillips said.

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