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Washburn: Good opportunities still present for deer hunters



For the Monitor
Sunday, December 03, 2017

The latest hunting report is in and there’s some good news and some bad news: Post-Thanksgiving times are still good opportunities for deer hunters as the rut remains a powerful influence on buck movements. The kill to date when the report was issued was 11,135. This represents a 12 percent increase over the same period last year and represents the second highest in the past nine years. Hillsborough, Rockingham and Grafton counties are showing the highest registrations to date.

You must understand, however, this is the county in which the deer was registered and not necessarily the county the deer was shot as of the same hunting period.

Hillsborough went from 1,774 in 2016, to 2,169 in 2017; Rockingham from 1,622 to 1,937; and Grafton from 1,477 to 1,599. By comparison, Merrimack County went from 849 to 997. This exceeds the registrations for every year from 2009 to 2017 – except 2013. Lagging only 189 deer killed behind 2013, this year could easily be the record-setter. To get there the total kill would have to exceed 12,540.

I am optimistic it can be attained.

Am I surprised at the results so far? Not a bit. We have experienced back-to-back mild winters and back-to-back hard and soft mast bumper crops. So, going into the deer season the deer herd was in great shape. Going into this winter, the deer herd is also in great shape. This bodes well for winter deer survival.

The bear season resulted in the taking of 534 bears through Nov. 16. This represents a decrease compared to most prior years and is directly attributable to the excess of hard and soft mast, notably acorns and beach nuts. Beach nuts are on a three-year cycle. So, in the next two years, they will not be a factor in the bear hunt even though the overall number of bears have never been greater.

The fall turkey harvest was more of the same, a decrease of 71.8 percent. According to Ted Walski, hard and soft mast was the culprit. There is a definite correlation between good mast years and bad mast years. In poor mast years turkeys flock up in fields in search for food making them more accessible to hunters.

The numbers of turkeys are at an all-time high and are also in great shape going into this winter. We will see what winter brings us but I have high expectations that the turkey population will get through with minimum losses.

Fish and Game biologists completed their annual effort to attach hundreds of metal leg bands to ducks throughout the state. This year a total of 1,037 ducks were banded during a pre-hunting season effort, a record-high total banding in the 29 years of the program. This included 778 mallards, 238 wood ducks, 9 black ducks and 12 mallard/black duck hybrids.

The preseason banding effort is conducted in the United States and Canadian provinces throughout the Atlantic Flyway in August and September.

This considerable effort provides survival rate that is used in combination with breeding plot data, pats collection data, and HIP (National Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program) survey data as inputs for the model used to determine annual season regulation in the spring.

Each metal band has a unique sequence of numbers, and biologists record the species, age and each duck before it’s released. At the end of the season, all of the data are submitted to the Bird E Lab at the Patuxent Wildlife Research center in Laurel, Md. When a hunter harvests a duck with a metal band, they are asked to report the information on a website provided on the band (reportband.gov).

The Wildlife Heritage Foundation announced awards totaling $49,932 to N.H. Fish and Game programs. The awards were made possible by a winning bid of $20,999.99 in the Foundation’s 2017 Moose Permit Auction, along with donations from Engel Entertainment for aired television episodes of North Woods Law: New Hampshire and a generous donation by an anonymous donor to supplement this year’s funding.

This year’s awards to unfunded or under-funded programs went to Wild Times for Kids, a department-produced publication distributed to grades 3 through 6 in New Hampshire schools; one scholarship to Becoming an Outdoors-Woman fall workshop; partial sponsorship of the 2018 Discover Wild New Hampshire Day, and anti-predation projects at New Hampton Hatchery and Powder Mill Hatchery.

The annual moose permit auction is the primary fundraiser for the Foundation, whose mission as the official non-profit partner of the Fish and Game Department is to support the wildlife, conservation, education, fisheries and law enforcement programs. These aims are critical to preserving New Hampshire’s outdoor quality of life for generations to come.

Due to the wider environment of restricted funds, and more specifically, the reduction of available moose permits for the auction, supplements funds were needed for the grant program this year.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at hunterscorner@aol.com.)