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Hunter’s Corner: Deer take about in line with 10-year average

Last modified: 12/31/2015 12:40:41 AM
The unofficial deer, bear, turkey and moose numbers are in and 2015 was an interesting year. The total deer kill was 10,912, which represent a 4-percent decline from the 11,396 taken in 2014. The good news, however, is that this was slightly above the 10-year average of 10,896.

I have spoken with hunters from different parts of the state and we all observed the same phenomena: The deer had grouped up. Their pattern of movement is such that unless you timed your hunt just right, you were not seeing deer. With Robb and me seeing more than 20 deer, that was a good season for us.

The total taken this year represents approximately 11 percent of New Hampshire’s preseason population, estimated to be 100,000. The buck-doe ratio continues to be out of balance, with Fish and Game attempting to seek balance by issuing bonus doe permits in WMU L and M and controlling the number of either-sex days in WMUs. New Hampshire continues to be the only state with a deer population that doesn’t use a permit system to regulate the buck-doe ratio. The El Niño influenced December is a supreme weather benefit for the herd. Deer have been viewed locally feeding on fresh grass in backyards. Normally the grass would have been frosted over and not have taste appeal. The warm temperatures also prolong rutting activity and delay deer utilizing their fat reserves. All in all, this is a great situation for the deer herd.

Hunters took a total of 749 bears during the 2015 season which represents a 14-percent increase over the five-year average and a 5-percent decline from the 2014 tally of 786 bears. The method specific breakdown was 1.8 m/f for bait hunters, 1.2 m/f for still hunters and .8 m/f for hound hunters. An abundance of apples and beechnut gave the hunters the edge as they knew in advance where the bears would be feeding and only had to set up on these food sites.

It used to be that Dec. 1 was the operative date for putting out bird feeders. That has been changed to wait until snow.

With a success rate of 68 percent, which was slightly less than the 72-percent rate of 2014, successful moose hunters traveled from eight different states. Female hunters accounted for eight of the 74 moose taken this year. Seventy percent of the moose were taken within the first three days of the season.

The heaviest bull was taken by New Hampshire resident John Gibbas in zone D2. The moose weighed 810 pounds field dressed. The heaviest cow was taken by non-resident Tyler Sypek in zone B and his field dressed cow weighed 675 pounds. The largest antler spread was 54.5 inches on a bull taken by New Hampshire resident Richard Malasky in zone B. The youngest hunter, 10-year-old Skylar Pelletier, a Hunt of a Lifetime permittee, took a 772-pound bull with 18 points and a 48.13-inch spread. The oldest hunter participating in the moose hunt was 78-year-old New Hampshire resident Donald Marten, who took a 630-pound cow on an antlerless-only tag in zone C1. Well done, Donald.

Based on the encouraging May waterfowl reports, I fully expected the inland zone to have plentiful numbers of ducks and geese in the second half of the waterfowl season. It didn’t happen, owing to the mild temperature. I observed a flight of geese on Dec. 20 and a second flight on Dec. 21. A friend of mine hunts woodcock with an English cocker spaniel and bagged 36 timberdoodles. He also hunts ducks and geese with a curly haired retriever and bagged one mallard and one Canada goose. Robb and I spotted three wood ducks long after they should have departed for points south.

Changes are coming to the fishing and hunting license fees – they are going up. It had to happen. The cost of a basic hunting and fishing license will likely go up by $10. The license for those 68 and older also will go up. For those residents who turn 68 on or after Jan. 1, 2016, there will be a $7 fee and must be purchased annually. Those who reached their 68th birthday by Dec. 31, 2015, are grandfathered in and can obtain a free permanent license. Fish and Game has been under extreme budgetary pressure because the General Court appreciates the millions of dollars Fish and Game brings into the state but refuses to share the general fund revenue to support Fish and Game. Totally shameful. For the serious hunter and angler, the way to avoid future license increases is to purchase a lifetime hunting and angling license.

Hike Safe Cards became a reality in 2015. What they are is a “get out of jail” card for those hikers, climbers, back-country skiers, kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts who find themselves in need of rescue. From 2006 through 2014, Fish and Game recouped over $69,600 in rescue cost reimbursement from those who have acted negligently. Hike Safe Cards cost $25 for an individual or $35 for a family (parents and minor children) and are good for a calendar year. The price is the same for residents and non-residents.

As of Dec. 1, a total of 2,848 cards had been sold, bringing more than $75,700 for Fish and Game’s Search and Rescue fund. Unfortunately the annual cost of S&R is about $200,000. In recent years (2006-14), Fish and Game conducted an average of 180 search-and-rescue missions each year. Under state law, Fish and Game can pursue reimbursement for rescue costs if the person rescued is deemed to have acted negligently. For the card’s low cost, this may be your best investment in 2016.

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


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