Hunter’s Corner: Fall 2016 was a good one for deer

  • Bob Washburn

For the Monitor
Published: 1/22/2017 10:23:49 PM

There are three key factors that determine whether or not the deer herd will successfully negotiate the winter months. The first factor is the overall health of the deer herd heading into winter. The fall of 2016 was a great season for deer because of the great hard and soft mast crops that were available, especially acorns. Fat reserves were in great shape heading into winter. Most forests in southern New Hampshire are a mixture of deciduous and conifers. What happens is when acorns drop they will sometimes land under a conifer. These will be the last acorns eaten as early snow will cover them up. As the snow recedes during thaw conditions, deer and turkeys will seek them out.

The December thaw was great and the January thaw was even better. The second challenge facing the deer population is the Winter Severity Index (WSI). Simply put, the basis of the index is the number of days there are 18 inches of snow on the ground and the number of days the temperature goes below zero. So far, at least in southern New Hampshire, that rating is zero and that is a good thing. Are deer grazers or browsers? I rightly or wrongly believe they are both. In the spring they survive by grazing on spring grass. As the season progresses into summer, they graze on lush green plants. As September comes and the acorns drop they graze on the acorns. As winter comes there is nothing to graze on and they become browsers, browsing on nutrient rich sapling buds, hemlock and spruce. The buds are great. Hemlock is helpful. Spruce gives them a full-belly feeling but has little nutritional value. So, when there is little to browse or graze on, what happens next? The deer are left to survive on their fat reserves. Basically what happens is the deer herd shuts down in terms of movement. This is done to conserve energy. What counters this is packs of coyotes and domestic dogs left to run loose force the deer that would otherwise not be expended.

And then there are those who insist upon feeding deer. Many believe they are helping the deer population – they aren’t. Other just like to see deer in the winter. The dynamics of a deer’s digestive system are they have a multi-chamber stomach. The ruminants pass through the system is a very gentle process. When high protein is introduced in a deer’s system it can cause dire circumstances to the deer. The only thing Fish and Game recommends is that if you start feeding deer; don’t stop until green up is here.

The final factor impacting deer winter survival is green-up. The sooner green-up happens in the spring, the greater the opportunity of deer survival. This is when the deer herd is on the ropes when it comes to remaining fat reserves. Although we are quite a while away from the first day of spring, one can only hope that it comes sooner than later.

The schedule for Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOM) has been set for 2017.
The Winter BOW, set for Feb. 25, is a one-day winter workshop that allows women to experience ice fishing, snowshoeing, tracking, winter outdoor survival, or “Shoe and Shoot” (woodland target shooting on snowshoes). Cost is $55 ($25 for participants age 18-25). Spaces are still available.

Beyond BOW Deep Sea Fishing, June 4. Enjoy a day of deep-sea fishing adventure aboard The Yellowbird out of Hampton. Cost is $75. Registration opens Apr. 10.

Duck, Duck Goose is an introduction to waterfowl hunting, Aug. 12.

Lean how to hunt ducks and geese at Fish and Game’s Owl Brook Hunter Education Center. The cost is $55 and registration opens June 26.

The crown jewel of BOW events is the fall weekend on Sept. 8-10 at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps in Holderness

Participants choose four workshops to take during the weekend. Cost is $335 which includes meals and lodging, plus instruction and equipment use. Registration opens June 5.

The Wildlife Heritage Foundation is pleased to announce they have met a match grant from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund of the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to build an addition to the dining hall/classroom at Berry Conservation Camp. With building costs of $45,000 now raised the state bidding and approval process has now begun through New Hampshire Fish and Game.

Hanna Verville, an 11-year-old Berry camper who wanted to help improve what she called “the best camp ever!” Verville decided to bake cookies to raise money, and within three days of sending emails to neighbors, classmates and her mother’s colleagues, Verville had order for an amazing 80 dozen cookies. Verville mixed and baked all the cookies herself over the Christmas holiday weekend, and with additional donations to support her, she raised $917 for the fundraiser. Awesome Hanna!

Beginning this year, permits to bait wildlife on the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Forest (CLHF), a 146,400 acre property located in Pittsburg, Clarksville and Stewartstown will be awarded by a lottery administered by Fish and Game’s Region 1 office in Lancaster. A maximum of 40 permits to bait bear and 20 permits to bait other species (i.e. deer and coyote) will be awarded across 11 trapping units on the CLHF.

To be considered in the lottery, applications must be received at the Region 1 office on the first Monday in April and must be received by 4 p.m. on the first Friday in May. Applicants may either drop them off or mail them in. The applications will be available on Feb. 15 by downloading it from the Fish and Game website or at the Region 1 office. Early filers will not be counted. The drawing will be held on the second Monday in May and successful applicants within 7 days following the lottery.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at

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