Granite Geek: Yes, there’s hunting in Concord – more than you might suspect

  • Deer and turkeys converge in Colrain. Contributed photo/Vicky Griswold

  • Some of the wild turkeys in a flock flap their wings as they move through a yard after preening on Friday, Oct. 5, 2018 in Zelienople, Pa. The start of wild turkey hunting season starts in most of the Pennsylvania on Oct. 27. The start dates and duration of the season is determined by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners and varies by each geographical Wildlife Management Unit (WMU). (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic) Keith Srakocic

  • FILE- In this July 5, 2011, file photo a deer looks up from grazing in Barre, Vt. The Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department says preliminary numbers from last year's hunting seasons show hunters took the most deer since 2000. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File) Toby Talbot

  • FILE - In this July 25, 2014, file photo, a black bear in captivity awaits handouts at the the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray, Maine. The state's growing bear population may lead officials to tweak regulations. The annual bear hunt has long been a source of conflict between animal lovers and hunters in Maine, in part because the state allows hunting with methods such as laying bait and chasing with hunting dogs. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File) Robert F. Bukaty

  • An 86 pound buck with antlers under three inches lies in the back of Spencer LeMay's truck as he registers it at the Lyme Country Store's game check station in Lyme, N.H., Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018. LeMay also took an 84 pound doe on his deer management tag. Both came out of the Trescott Reservoir Lands where deer have learned to refuge over the years when hunting was restricted there. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

Monitor staff
Published: 4/5/2019 11:37:01 AM

You probably think of deer hunting as a rural activity but maybe you should think again.

In 2018, hunters killed twice as many deer per square mile in the big city of Concord than in more rural nearby towns like Henniker, Canterbury or Salisbury. In fact, hunters killed slightly more deer per square mile in the state’s most populous city than they did in quiet Salisbury – 0.7 kills per square mile in Manchester, 0.66 per square mile in Salisbury.

That’s not to pick on Salisbury’s marksmanship, however. Deer are so common around New Hampshire that hunters don’t need to travel far to find them, so it’s not surprising that lots of people equates to lots of success.

“If everybody in Salsibury went out into the woods, they’d never see each other,” said Kent Gustafson, wildlife biologist for the state Fish and Game Department, who was only half-joking.

Hunting around population areas is both common and successful.

“It’s not what people think of: hunting the Great North Woods. There’s hunting in large amounts of New Hampshire,” said Gustafson. “Most people don’t go too far if they have deer nearby. You need access to hunting areas, and it’s the people who live there who have access.”

In fact, the best deer-hunting success in New Hampshire can be found in the crowded Seacoast – in towns like Madbury, (7.09 deer killed per square mile) East Kingston (6.85), Greenland (6.70), Durham (5.95) and the tiny Piscataqua River estuary community of New Castle, which saw a whopping 10.15 deer killed per square mile.

That’s mostly because the deer population is highest in the state’s southeast corner and hunters there are allowed to kill more deer during hunting season in an attempt by New Hampshire Fish and Game to control the population.

“Typically the only places we don’t see deer being taken from are the most remote areas, the highest locations – those little purchases and grants” in the North Country, said Gustafson.

Hunting success inside city limits doesn’t happen only with deer. There were five bears killed in Concord during hunting season in 2018, and 49 wild turkeys killed during the two seasons for that species, in spring and fall.

All this data comes from the state’s annual Wildlife Harvest report.

The report says the total number of bears killed by New Hampshire hunters in 2018 was a record: 1,053, far above the previous record of 898. That was caused, Gustafson said, by a healthy bear population and the fact that 2018 saw a shortage of acorns in our forests, which followed a year of abundant forage. This acorn shortage led hungry bears to wander further in search of food, exposing them to hunters – the same thing that led to last year’s boom in squirrel numbers and subsequent roadkill.

The deer total was almost a record, as well: 14,113, the biggest tally in four decades and the second-biggest on record.

That success occurred even though the number of hunters continues to decline.

In 2018, New Hampshire sold 55,562 hunting licenses – 45,590 to state residents and 9,972 to others. That’s about 4,000 fewer licenses than in 2016 and almost 40,000 fewer than in the mid-1990’s, when the number of hunters was at its peak.

The decline in hunting numbers has happened through the United States and much of the developed world. It is attributed to a variety of factors, including urbanization of society and an increase in options for entertainment and outdoor activities.

As for the most-publicized target of hunters, a total of 51 moose were killed last year, tied with 2017 for the smallest on record since hunting was starting again in 1988. That’s by design: State biologists have been reducing the number of hunting licenses sold via lottery for the past decade because of a decline in the moose population caused mostly by the toll of increasing numbers of winter ticks.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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