Vermont owners of forest lands who are concerned about keeping deer numbers managed can now connect with hunters who register their interest to hunt in the area by using a new feature on the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com
Following a recommendation from an advisory group of landowners, hunters, foresters, wildlife biologists, and Fish and Wildlife Board members to investigate the issues of deer doing damage as well as hunters unable to gain access to private lands, the department created an online system where hunters can register for permission to hunt in an area of the state. Landowners can go to the website and then contact hunters they would like to invite to hunt deer on their property. There are no restrictions on whether or not the land is posted.
This new initiative is in response to hunters' concerns about access to private lands, and because foresters and forest landowners are increasingly reporting that deer are causing damage to young seedlings and saplings -- preventing them from growing into valuable commercial trees. Red oak, white ash and sugar maples in southern Vermont appear to be especially vulnerable to deer feeding on them.
Less obvious are the effects heavy understory browsing by deer is having on the overall health of the forest. Studies in urban areas of southern New England and in National Parks where deer are not hunted have documented not only problems with tree regeneration, but also marked decreases in numbers of flowering plants such as orchids and lilies, fewer songbirds due to a loss of nesting habitat, as well as reduced populations of upland game species such as snowshoe hare, woodcock and ruffed grouse.
A "Get Connected" quick-link for interested hunters and landowners is on the website under "Items of Special Interest."
"We believe this is a win-win situation where landowners can proactively coordinate hunter access to their lands, and hunters willing to put additional effort into landowner relations will benefit by finding more forest lands open to deer hunting," said Deputy Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Kim Royar. "It also enables deer hunters a chance to manage deer populations where it is most needed. The success of the program will depend on the interest of foresters and landowners to participate so that such lands become available to hunters."