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Hunter’s Corner: How another nor’easter will affect wildlife



For the Monitor
Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Spring seemed to arrive back in February when the Merrimack River was open, fields were sort of bare and the small ponds were opening up. Every morning a flight of resident geese would fly over my house at 6:30 a.m. It was a tonic that brought a daily smile to my face.

But Tuesday was the first day of spring and we are looking at a fourth Nor’easter coming our way on Wednesday.

Both deer and turkeys will hunker down as a result of the snow. But the snow we have been receiving is nothing new for March. Most of our heaviest snow accumulations have historically come around the 15th of March.

After a normal winter, March is the last challenge to the deer population. That’s when their fat reserves are near exhaustion and they are in desperate need of green up. From a winter severity index, which consists of the number of days with 18 or more inches of snow on the ground plus the number of below zero days, the 2017-18 winter was a cake walk in the greater Concord area. To make matters better, the deer herd entered winter with significant fat reserves (the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department checks remaining fat reserves from road kill). So I remain totally optimistic about the deer population in the greater Concord area. Deer in the rest of the state, which has been pounded by snow, remains a question mark.

March is also time for trout fans to catch monster rainbows of bragging size because rainbow trout spawn in March. All of those feeder streams pouring into the big lakes that hold sizable rainbow populations are prime candidates for prime trout. Admittedly, this type of fishing is not for the weak at heart. It will be probably be the most challenging rainbow fishing you can encounter, but the risk is worth the rewards.

By law, you must have your bob house off the ice by April 1. Chances are if you still have your bob house on the ice you’re already flirting danger. January was a great month for making ice. February was just the opposite. At one point in time, it was my opinion that it would be a late ice out, but February convinced me of the contrary. When you factor in the longer ours of light, azimuth of the sun and generally warming temperatures, ice out should be a normal mid-April if not sooner.

Fish and Game will hold its wildlife rule proposal hearing at 6:30 p.m. on April 3 at its headquarters in Concord. The hearing will cover deer, bear, turkey, moose, gray squirrel, cottontail rabbit fisher and red and gray fox hunting and trapping seasons.

Fish and Game is proposing enhanced hunting opportunities in 11 of the 20 Wildlife Management Units. These enhanced hunting opportunities include additional either-sex hunting days in WMU’s C 2, D 2W, E, F, G 1, G 2, I 1, I 2, and J 1. Two thousand antlerless-only permits for use in WMU l will be issued via a new online lottery system. Crossbows will be allowed in WMU M during archery season.

There will also be the establishment of a Deer Management Assistance Program to support towns with documented evidence of an overabundant deer populations. This will give the department the authority to regulate deer feeding when evidence indicates said feeding is causing deer mortality or is threatening public safety.

The bear population continues to expand in two of the state’s six bear management regions. As a result, it is proposed to add seven days of bait hunting and nine days of still hunting to the existing bear season in the White Mountains and Central regions. Also proposed is the adding of 14 days of still hunting in Southwest-2 and Southeast regions.

Turkey proposed changes include moving the opening day from May 3 to May 1 in 2019 and allowing a second turkey to be taken in the spring hunt but you could not take a fall turkey in WMU H 1, H 2, J 2, K, L, and M. These WMU’s could easily sustain a two-bird bag limit in the spring as well as a one-bird fall bag limit.

No changes are being proposed the 2019 moose season with 51 either-sex permits being issued plus one permit for the Hunt of a Lifetime and one permit for the New Hampshire Wildlife Heritage Foundation. Since the Foundation funds Fish and Game projects, this seems like a short-sighted decision by Fish and Game.

Also being recommended is a one-month expansion of the gray squirrel and cottontail rabbit seasons by adding the month of January, and a reduction in the length of the fisher and red and gray fox hunting and trapping seasons.

I’m not sure if Fish and Game has issued many bird-feeder alerts, but it did this year.

“During recent years, den emergence by bears appears to be a couple of weeks earlier as compared to historical trends, which is a direct result of milder winters and decreased snowpack,” said Bear Project Leader Andrew Timmins. “The strong spring sunshine, longer days, warmer temperatures, and receding snow level stimulate many wildlife species, including hungry bears, to start searching for available food. As bears start to get active, let it serve as a reminder that it is time to put the bird feeders away until next fall.”

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