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Hunter’s Corner: With spring comes talk of deer and moose

March 3 already and I am totally psyched. Next Sunday will be the first day of daylight-saving time. The first day of spring is 17 days away.

March 1 began a 15-day crow season. March and April are the do or die months for the deer herd. Thus far, it has been a great winter for them. In terms of the winter severity index, degree days below zero and more than 18 inches of snow on the ground have not been a factor in their survival.

However, the reason March and April are so key is that the deer are at the end of their fat reserves. They need an early green-up. Does are in their final trimester and if there is an early green-up, we can count on a good fawn crop. If the does get nutritionally stressed out, they will self abort the fawns just to survive. If you are one of those folks who have been feeding deer, you need to keep feeding until green-up. Next year it would be a better choice not to feed the deer.

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Something is happening with the moose population in various parts of the country and I am not sure why. First it was Minnesota, I believe, that cancelled the 2013 moose season. Annually, Minnesota surveys the moose population to estimate moose numbers, calf:cow and bull:cow ratios. Bell Jet Ranger (OH-58) helicopters are used to conduct the survey. The result is a straight line curve declining from an estimated population of 8,160 in 2005 to a 2013 estimate of 2,760. The calves:cow ratio has been in noticeable decline and has the percent of calves and percent of cows with twins also in decline. The bull cow percentage demonstrates a marked increase. Minnesota has a problem we don’t have in the Northeast yet – wolves. The extent that wolves and or habitat are the reason for the decline has yet to be determined.

Vermont and New Hampshire may be suffering from the same problems: winter ticks and a damaged 2012 calf crop. Vermont announced a reduction of moose permits proposed to be issued this year to 355, which represents a slight decrease from the 385 issued last year.

“We recommended a slight reduction in permits this year based on the biological data we have collected on Vermont’s moose and our calculated population estimates indicating moose densities are below management goals in some of the northern areas,” biologist Cedric Alexander said. “It’s the intent of this proposal to allow slow population growth in some regions while continuing to stabilize moose numbers elsewhere.”

Alexander estimates Vermont has 2,500 to 3,000 moose statewide, with the greatest concentration in the Northeast Kingdom.

“We also want to take a conservative approach, given recent regional and national trends of moose populations and health,” Alexander added. “Moose biologists from the southern tier of moose range across the country are increasingly concerned about the effects of warming temperatures on moose health. Weather patterns have created more days where the thermoregulatory threshold for moose is exceeded, causing them to feed less and the warmer climate leads to higher winter tick loads.”

Moose hunting permit lottery application will be available on Vermont’s website (vtfishand wildlife.com) in early May.

So what’s up with the New Hampshire moose hunt? I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the number of North Country permits experienced a reduction for the same reasons Vermont reduced its, especially in New Hampshire’s A1 and A2. There may be other WMUs affected, but we will have to wait and see.

The trend in Maine is going against the grain. The $64,000 Maine question used to be how many moose are in Maine. For the longest time that number was pegged at 29,000. Last year, 54,000 people applied for 3,725 permits. Nothing says “middle of nowhere” like a moose.

For the past three years, Lee Kantar, Maine moose biologist, has been attempting to conduct a moose census by boarding a Maine Forest Service helicopter and counting moose. Flying low and slow, the noisy helicopter with it noisy rotors sends the moose scampering out of their cover. This is pretty much the same tactics deployed in Minnesota. It took three years to complete the survey and, as a result, legislation is in the works to significantly increase the number of moose permits to be drawn. Kantar has proposed an increase of 430 permits for 2013.

Your odds at getting drawn in the Maine moose lottery as a non-resident are like catching lighting in a jar, but if you get drawn, your odds of bagging a moose look pretty good.

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The ducks are coming to Concord. Well, not exactly, but the Capital Area Ducks Unlimited Chapter will be holding its annual banquet on March 30 at the Grappone Center. If have never been to a DU banquet, you have missed a lot of fun-filled evenings. The cost is $65 for a single, $120 for a couple and $35 for a Greenwing. Doors open at 6 p.m., dinner is at 7:15 and an auction at 8. The Chapter contact is Mike Nolan at 413-348-8106.

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

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