On opening day of Deer Rifle Season, hopes of bagging the big one

Mike Covey photo

By Steve McLeod

Come dusk Friday night, lights will flicker on in thousands of deer camps in the hills, dales, and deep woods throughout rural Vermont as hunters gather for Vermont’s unofficial sixteen day holiday otherwise known as Deer Rifle Season.  

Vermonters hunting out of home will be anxiously organizing their gear in hopes of bagging the big one on Opening Day also.

Many hunters take a two week vacation so as to be encamped the entire rifle season. Some are so in love with the hunting way of life that they will deer hunt in more than one state. Many camps are multiple decades old, some as much as a century or more old. Generations of family and friends have been part of camp lore.

Come Saturday morning, after a big hunter’s breakfast at camp or at local breakfast spots, hunters will filter into the woods, some in cover of darkness, in hopes of bagging the ever elusive white tail buck at first light. Soon, shots will ring from the hills.  If the hunter hears shots near him or her, they will hope one of their camp mates fired the shots and bagged a first day buck. Or, if the shots missed, the hunter hopes the deer is heading his or her way. 

Soon after dawn, deer reporting stations in sporting goods stores and general stores throughout Vermont will come alive with hunters reporting in their buck as per state law. The reporting station will record weight and other information. Many reporting stations run buck pools and post photos of each successful hunter with his or her buck. There is a buzz at the reporting stations from all the activity that Opening Day creates.

Back at camp, it will be a festive 16 days where participants hunt hard, some harder than others, eat hearty, and enjoy leaving life’s daily problems far behind. Rural businesses throughout the state will benefit from all the hunters that are suddenly in their midst. This is tourist revenue for non-tourist towns in many cases.

Camps generally have a large dining table to accommodate everyone, and many heart warming and hilarious hunting stories get told around that table. Wild game meals are common. Camp participants range from kids to some of Vermont’s oldest citizens.

If you’ve got deer stories you’d like to share with Vermont Daily Chronicle readers, send to news@vermontdailychronicle.com.

Need to know information about Deer Season from the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department:

Deer season begins Saturday, November 11 and ends Sunday, November 26. 

A hunter may take one legal buck during this season if they did not already take one during the archery deer season.  

“The greatest numbers of deer continue to be in western regions of the state and other valley areas,” said Vermont Fish and Wildlife’s deer biologist Nick Fortin. “The Green Mountains and Northeast Kingdom offer more of a big woods experience with fewer, but often larger, deer.”     

Vermont hunting licenses include a buck tag for this season and a late season bear tag (for Nov. 11-19), cost $28 for residents and $102 for nonresidents.  Hunters under 18 years of age get a break at $8 for residents and $25 for nonresidents.  Licenses are available on Fish and Wildlife’s website and from license agents statewide. 

“I am urging all hunters to wear a fluorescent orange hat and vest to help maintain Vermont’s very good hunting season safety record,” said Vermont Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Christopher Herrick.

A 2023 Deer Season Hunting Guide can be downloaded from the department’s website at http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com.  The guide includes a map of the Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), season dates, regulations, and other helpful information.

Hunters are required to report deer in person at a big game reporting station during the regular season.  Online reporting will not be available. This requirement allows biologists to collect important information from as many deer as possible.

Hunters who get a deer on November 11 or 12 can help Vermont’s deer management program by reporting their deer at one of the biological check stations listed below that will be staffed from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., unless the store closes earlier:

Lost Nation Guns & Ammo – Swanton

West Enosburg Country Store – Enosburg Falls

Wright’s Sport Shop – Derby

Bob’s Quick Stop – Irasburg

Lead & Tackle – Lyndonville

R&L Archery – Barre

Village Grocery & Deli – Waitsfield

Rack N Reel – New Haven

Keith’s Country Store – Pittsford

Singleton’s Store – Proctorsville

Buck Stop Mini Mart – Bennington

Guilford Country Store – Guilford

Hunters who do not go to a biological reporting station are asked to provide a tooth from their deer. Obtain a tooth envelope from your regular reporting agent. Remove one of the middle incisor teeth, being careful to include the root. Place the tooth in the envelope and give it to the reporting agent. Each tooth will be cross sectioned to accurately determine the deer’s age, and the results will be posted on the Fish and Wildlife website next spring.

The author is a longtime hunting, fishing and trapping advocate and a former Vermont legislator. Need to know information submitted by VT Fish & Wildlife.

Categories: Outdoors

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