Great Northern Productions

Vermont's Quality Deer Herd

by Tom Blais

The Benoit's with trophy bucks taken in 2001
The Benoit's with trophy bucks taken in 2001

The Benoit's and I were at the Yankee Sportsman Classic in Essex, Vermont when a hunter asked me if the Benoit family hunted in Vermont anymore? I replied that the Benoit's do not hunt in Vermont anymore it is the same reason why I don't hunt much in my home state. The explanation may be of a shock to some people. We don't hunt in Vermont because Vermont's deer herd has a very low buck to doe ratio and over 90% of the bucks in the herd are 1 1/2 year olds. It's unfortunate that most Vermonters don't bring home mature bucks from the states bizarre deer herd. It's not because Vermont doesn't have good hunters. I've met some of the best hunters in the country that live in Vermont. The state has a good deer population, plenty of food and habitat. So why isn't Vermont a trophy whitetail producting state? I think it's about time that Vermont's buck quality should be discussed. I have had the opportunity to hunt and attend hunting shows in twenty states and three Provinces in Canada, all of these places have excellent adult whitetail buck herds, well excellent compared to Vermont. It is my opinion that Vermont has the poorest quality deer hunting in the country. Why are trophy bucks so hard to come by in the Green Mountian State? You don't have to be a Biologist to see why 90% of Vermont bucks taken each fall average only 1 1/2 years and the buck to doe ratio in Vermont is as bad as it gets with a ratio of about one buck for every ten does. States like New Jersey, Massachusetts's and Connecticut have a better age class of bucks and a superior buck to doe ratio.

A photo of a typical Vermont buck Photo taken by Tom Blais at ten yards.
A photo of a typical Vermont buck Photo taken by Tom Blais at ten yards. "Don't shoot I'm just a little guy"

If 90% of all bucks taken in the state are 1 1/2 year olds then what age class of bucks will replenish the buck herd? The Answer is Button bucks. Fawn bucks will be the primary age of group of bucks left over after the hunting season. This is why Vermont's deer herd is in an endless cycle of producing immature deer. Must hunters shoot the first legal buck that they see which is likely to be an immature buck. If the hunter passes on that spike buck another hunter might take it or they might not get another chance. Vermont hunters have little choice when a legal deer is in their sites, the odds of a mature deer showing up is very low. The states buck herd has been shot down to immature bucks; they hardly ever have a chance to live past two years.

What is a trophy buck? It seems that a hunters' definition of a trophy whitetail differs from region to region. I believe that all deer taken are special and should be respected no matter what size but not all deer taken are of trophy size. To a youth or a first time hunter that spike horn might just be a trophy. If a seasoned hunter takes an 1 1/2-year-old buck and thinks he's got a mature, crafty, trophy buck then they should take an honest look at the animal they have taken. A mature whitetail buck is at least three years of age or older, he is of breeding age and is a challenge to hunt.

I'm a Vermonter, I started hunting there when I was ten and I still do some bow hunting in the state so I know what it's like to hunt in this unbalanced deer herd. I've bow hunted near my home in Chester, Vermont for twelve years and I've only seen one eight point buck and he still wasn't a mature animal. Some day I would like to hunt Vermont and pursue trophy size deer with my son. But for now we must hunt what we have small immature bucks that are of little challenge for a seasoned hunter. Most Vermonters that want to hunt mature deer travel to other states or to Canada. It's of little wonder why Vermont's "out of state" license sales are down and many Native Vermonters don't bother to buy a tag in their home state.

Tom Blais with a mature 3 1/2 year old buck. This is not a Vermont Deer!
Tom Blais with a mature 3 1/2 year old buck. This is not a Vermont Deer!

Vermont whitetails have decent genetics, food and cover; they just need some age to become mature. The only solution to change the quality of Vermont's deer herd is to pass an antler point restriction law like other states have. A new law that would make a legal buck, one with a minimum of three or four points one inch long on at least one antler. This would make the average buck taken an eight pointer or better. If Vermont passed a law like that then hunters would suffer for the first season because few deer would meet the point requirement. By the second and third year you would see a huge increase in the size and age of the bucks harvested. As the buck population increased more does would have to be taken to keep the deer herd in check. This would allow hunters the chance to put meat in the freezer and allow the bucks to reach maturity.

Missippi and Arkansas have antler point restriction laws. Since these laws were passed the deer herds there have exploded with trophy bucks. Vermont has the potential to become a big buck producing state but this will never happen unless a new management law is passed. People need to change their ideas on deer management in order for this to happen. Hunters and biologist in many states work hard to manage their deer herds and promote trophy hunting. The state of Vermont could have a quality deer management program if laws like this were passed. Just think about what it would be like to hunt huge deer in the beautiful state of Vermont. The economic impact on Vermont would be tremendous if the state had many trophy deer.

Please email your views on this article. Do you agree or disagree. Do you think Vermont is a great place to deer hunt? Let us know what you think about Vermont's Quality deer herd.

E-mail Tom Blais Here: Contact Us

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