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smokepole
11-17-2008, 02:45 PM
The Vermont tradition
By David Willette
Monday, November 17

The State of Vermont has a long-standing tradition of taking its deer hunting seriously. It is the home of our nation's greatest hunting family, and for many years it was considered the Mecca of deer hunting. Like big bucks, traditions die hard, but it's time for the traditional opening day of rifle season to change to Thanksgiving Day. Before anyone swallows his or her Red Man, hear me out. This move will do more for the deer herd than any antler restriction, and you'll have more fun with your family, too.

With the new antler restriction laws, Vermont has slowly tip-toed its way into Quality Deer Management (QDM). Larry Benoit, the Messiah of Vermont deer hunters recently stated that the system works. He said that he has seen more medium-sized tracks this past year, than he's seen in a long time. He feels that the new antler restriction laws are working.

But these restrictions aren't enough. By moving opening day, these bucks will get even more protection. How many of these 2-3 year-old bucks are killed during the peak of the rut, which coincides with the traditional opening day? Too many, and by moving this day, these bucks will be less susceptible, and more will live until next year.

Other states prove this point. Eight out of the top 10 states for Boone and Crockett bucks have their gun season well after the rut. Sure these states have better habitat, which makes moving the opener even more crucial. Some hunters aren't that interested in shooting the big bucks, and are just as happy with a four-pointer. That's fine. You can still shoot a fork horn on Thanksgiving Day, too. But given a choice, most hunters will want to kill the bigger bucks. I don't know of anyone who will pass up a 10-pointer to shoot a scrub buck. According to Northeast Big Buck Club records, in the last five years Massachusetts has registered over 80 big whitetails, compared to Vermont's total of two.

There is another huge advantage to moving the opener. There's usually snow on the ground by the time Thanksgiving comes around. Wouldn't it be nice to have a fresh snow for opening day? The temperature last year on opening day was 55 degrees. With the colder air, the bucks will be moving more throughout the day, and they will have also settled down more since the Youth Weekend hunt.

The biggest plus to this change will be what the new opener does for the deer-hunting family, and how it increases hunter opportunity. With the traditional opening day, high school-age hunters may have sporting or other school events scheduled, and some college students just can't make it home. The Thanksgiving Day opener changes all of this. There are no events planned, and EVERY college student has Thanksgiving off. Wouldn't it be nice to have Junior come home from UVM and have a nice long weekend to hunt with the family? Instead of the usual day-and-a-half that they may get on opening weekend. Many adults have to work on the second Saturday in November, too. The only adults that may have to work are either civil servants or medical personnel, but EVERY factory worker in the country has Thanksgiving Day off.

Change is difficult to swallow sometimes, especially long-standing traditions like they have in Vermont. But change is inevitable. Just look at the doe permits and what it has done to the health of the herd. Can anyone give me one valid reason why opening day has to stay at the second Saturday in November? Sure, the other northern New England states have their gun seasons run right through the heart of the rut, but how much better off would these states be if they moved their opener? Just look at the quality of the bucks in the states (like Massachusetts and Connecticut), that don't have a gun season in mid-November, and say that it doesn't work. This was the same argument (tradition), we heard when Vermont started issuing doe permits, and look at how much healthier the herd is now. Vermonters should be demanding to move the opener, and the sooner the better.

See ya ... out there