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Moose hunt success rate at an all-time low

The reported 62-percent statewide success rate in the moose hunt is the lowest ever. The nearest to this rate was in 2009, 2008 and 2000, which came through at 65 percent. Preliminary reports suggest that hunters experienced a 73-percent success rate in the Connecticut Lakes Region, 82 percent in the North Region, 64 percent in the White Mountain, 51 percent in the Central Region, 45 percent in the Southwest Region and 35 percent in the Southeast region.

Several factors contributed to the increase in the antlerless moose harvest and decrease in the overall success rate, according to Kristine Rines, moose biologist.

“There were more antlerless-only moose permits issued this year, which helped increase the percentage of cows in the take,” Rines said. “Hunter success overall was also affected by the reduced moose population and the unusually warm weather. By this time of year, moose have grown their heavy winter coats, so they really feel the heat. On warm days, they tend to bed down, making them harder for hunters to find. The first day of the season was decent, but after that, it was much too warm, except very early in the morning, for moose to be moving about.”

A friend had a cow-only permit. He had been entering the lottery from the very first drawing and finally got drawn. In his moose management region, he only saw bull moose. When I have filled out my moose lottery application in the past, I’ve said that I will accept a cow-only permit. That won’t happen again. A cow-only permit is too restricting given the decrease in the moose population in the Connecticut Lakes Region and to a lesser degree in the North Region, owing to the infestation of winter ticks.

The 2013 application will be available sometime in January, and 2012’s results should factor into your decision making. Is there a way to turn the moose population around? Yes, it is a heavy-snow winter. Accu-Weather has projected such a winter. This would be a double win for the North Country, since it would boost snowmobile activity and kill off winter ticks.

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Fringes of the storm of the century hit Concord. How does the wildlife population deal with it? The short version is they hunker down and wait it out. The deer population is classic to watch when this happens. As soon as there is a sudden shift downward in the barometric pressure, the dinner bell goes off in the deer’s brain and sets off a mild feeding frenzy. This will continue until the wind and rain comes.

Deer have basically two bedding areas. One or more will be on the high ground and one or more will be on the low ground. The high ground bedding areas offer greater visibility from approaching danger. The low bedding areas surrounded by hemlock swamps offer greater protection from the elements. When the storm hits, they will be safely bedded down in the low areas.

The normal daily deer cycle involves resting, feeding, mating and watering. When storms hit, they do not move. They stay in their beds until the storm subsides. The first indicator of the storm subsiding is a raise in barometric pressure. When this happens, the deer leave their feeding areas and commence feeding. Around the greater Concord area, deer will congregate on the oak ridges where they will feast on acorns. If the fields haven’t been hit by frost, they will feed on alfalfa, clover and rye.

Did anybody benefit from Sandy in the greater Concord area? Absolutely! Deer hunters. The winds and rains knocked down most of the remaining leaves, only oaks and beech trees have any substantial numbers left. With the leaves gone visibility has been significantly increased. The forest carpet is soaked, which means for quiet walking to assist in stalking the quarry. Conditions for yesterday’s muzzleloader opening should have been near perfect as long as the temperatures remained below 50 degrees.

One of the greatest advances to deer hunting was in tree stands. The biggest disadvantage to tree stands is gravity. People fall out of tree stands without the benefit of a harness and it isn’t pretty. It is not the fall that injures the hunter, but the sudden stop. Vermont Fish and Wildlife recently issued some common sense tree stand hunting tips:

∎ Choose a live, straight tree. If you are in a dead tree and with wind gusts, you are going over. Gravity strikes again.

∎ Only use a stand certified by the Treestand Manufacturers’ Association (TMA). A bargain-priced non-TMA stand is not worth the risk. And every time you go up a stand, inspect first.

∎ Always wear a full-body safety harness, even for climbing. Most falls occur going up and down the tree and in and out of the stand.

∎ Don’t go too high. The higher you go, the vital zone on a deer decreases, while the likelihood of a serious injury increases for you. The two shots that will drop a deer in its tracks are the head shot and spine shots. These are too easily missed. The smart shot is the heart-lung shot, also known as the goody box. It is this shot that decreases as you go too high.

∎ Never carry firearms or bows up and down trees. Always use a haul line to raise and lower gear. Make sure your firearm is unloaded. For muzzleloaders, make sure the cap is removed to render the rifle inert.

∎ Familiarize yourself with your gear before you go hunting. The morning of opening day is a poor time to put your safety belt on for the first time.

∎ Be careful with long-term placements. Exposure can damage straps, ropes and attachment cords. Also, the stand’s stability can be compromised over time, as the tree grows.

My addition to this list would be to wear blaze orange. A deer’s vision is the weakest of its defenses. They see shapes but not colors. My personal favorite is an orange camouflage multi-pocketed vest. Clearly visible to other hunters but not so visible to deer, unless I am standing. If I am sitting, I am not a recognizable danger to the deer. In addition, it’s a great way to carry the gear I want with me on the hunt.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at

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