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50-50 shot to bag a moose in Vermont

The final numbers are out from the 2012 Vermont moose hunt and they tell an interesting story.

Vermont has a special archery moose season, where 1,191 residents and 467 non-residents entered the lottery for 50 permits. There were 17 moose taken by successful hunters, yielding a 34-percent success rate. Hunting for a moose with a bow is a far greater challenge than hunting with a rifle, and the success rate measures the difficulty.

In the regular moose hunt, 8,279 residents and 2,324 non-residents entered the lottery, with 385 moose permits issued. Two hundred and five moose were taken for a success rate of 53.2 percent. These numbers are preliminary with the final numbers to be released in January when all of the data is received and reviewed, but it is in keeping with the normal success rates of Vermont.

My friend Rick entered his daughter Nicki in the 1994 Maine moose lottery. Lo and behold, Nicki caught lightning in a jar and was drawn for the hunt. It was a great hunt and Nicki shot a trophy bull. This past year, Rick put in for the Vermont moose hunt and it was his chance to catch lightning in a jar. His area was part of the sparsely populated Northeast Kingdom. He hired a guide and the guide did his best to call in a bull moose, but it was not to be.

Most of the land was posted with “Hunting with written permission only.” It sounded like that unless you hired a guide who had access to these properties, you had no place to hunt.

The kill percentage of 53 percent is about average for Vermont. It is still worth the 50-50 shot to bag a moose.

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The preliminary youth hunt weekend statistics are in and 387 were taken. This is significantly down from previous years, with 475 taken in 2011. My sense is that given the overall health of the deer herd, there may have been fewer youth hunters this year. At any rate, the youth hunting programs for deer, turkey and waterfowl provide a great opportunity for children to experience a hunt and to learn skills that will last a lifetime.

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Have you been watching the Dick’s fliers that have been inserted in the Sunday Monitor? Dick’s has been having a great sale on rifles, shotguns and ammunition. I only wish they would start their rifle sale sooner. The reason is simple. You just can’t take a rifle out of the box and go hunting with it. It needs to be sighted in and that means determining what brand of ammunition will produce the most accurate results. My best recommendation is to take advantage of the discounts and buy the rifle or shotgun now for the 2013 hunting season.

With respect to ammunition, don’t shortchange yourself by buying the bargain basement brands. Stay with the premium brands. Missing a shot at a trophy buck due to an ammunition choice is unacceptable.

I did pick up another sleeve of Hornady’s SST 12-gauge 300-grain slugs. These are intended for the use in rifled shotgun barrels for the greatest performance. The sale price is $9.98 per box of five. The regular price is $12.75, so there is real savings. The last time I purchased these slugs the price was $12.05. I use a Mossberg 12-gauge pump with a 24-inch rifled barrel and fiber optic sights. The SSTs provide a relatively high degree of accuracy.

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Brad Marshall has had 29 deer checked in so far, with biggest deer weighing 177 pounds. By in large, the deer have been in great shape with few having winter tick problems. Marshall’s is closed on Sundays and Mondays, which might explain the lower number of checked in deer. Other reports from some of the biologists checking in deer have found the deer’s fat reserves to be in great shape for the ensuing winter.

The regular firearms deer season opened on Wednesday. New Hampshire sets the opening day to be the second Wednesday in November. This year’s was the latest opening day we can experience. This is great for the deer hunter for several reasons. Most notably is that this is the absolute peak of the rut. This means bucks will be actively seeking does on a nearly non-stop basis. The greater the buck movement, the greater the opportunity for hunter-buck contact.

The herd recovery has resulted in more either-sex deer days in several WMUs. A legal antlered deer is a deer with one antler three inches or longer. Although it is an anomaly, does sometimes have antlers. The difference is the antlers on the does will still be in velvet.

The other major benefit of a Nov. 14 opening day is the opportunity to hunt on snow, which is a major hunter advantage. So what happened his week? Tuesday experienced heavy rain and had a cold front move through in the p.m. Tuesday the 13th was a new moon. So with the cold front and new moon, the deer fed heavily on the night of the 14th and 15th. Good news for the deer and bad news for the deer hunter. Unless you had a chance to kick the deer out of bed, your deer hunting opportunities were significantly reduced.

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

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