WOODS ‘N’ WATER: The woods await! Deer hunting now back in season

WOODS ‘N’ WATER: The woods await! Deer hunting now back in season


This Wednesday, Nov. 20, marked the opening of another firearms season for whitetailed deer here in Connecticut.

There was a time when many Connecticut deer hunters would travel long distances to other states like Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. While many still do, others have chosen to stay right here in Connecticut to do their deer hunting.

Connecticut does have a very lengthy deer season, and there is a reason for this There are too many deer for the existing habitat and this is one of the reasons for so many vehicle/deer collisions.

Here in Connecticut, hunting is used as a deer management tool. Without hunting, we would be overrun with deer — and in fact, in many suburban areas we are being overrun with deer.

At first, many folks thought it was pretty nifty having Bambi running around their yard. Then, for many of them, things changed drastically.

Besides the loss of their ornamental shrubs, many of them contacted Lyme Disease. It is a terrible disease that can happen to just about anyone, yet it seems to be more prevalent in areas heavily populated with deer.

I said in a book I authored back in 1992, “When it comes to deer management, the Department of Environmental Protection’s Wildlife Division takes a back seat to no one,” and I still feel that way. Especially when you consider that they have to depend on our legislators up in Hartford to give them the tools to do the managing. One only has to look at the fiasco they face when trying to come up with a means to regulate our rapidly increasing black bear population.

But, back to the deer hunting. For many years here in Connecticut, deer hunting was just about unheard of, with only landowners and lessees doing the majority of the deer hunting via special permits. Then archers got a chance at deer on state lands in 1957.

As the years rolled on, those with private land deer permits could only marvel at the deer that were being seen on private land holdings. Wildlife biologists also noticed the growing deer numbers and decided that something had to be done about it.

They wisely thought that increasing the opportunity to hunt whitetailed deer would help bring numbers under control and put millions of dollars into the state’s coffers and businesses catering to hunters. They were right!

The first “official” deer season for firearms took place in 1975, Until that time, the idea of an actual deer hunting season taking place in Connecticut was scoffed at by many quarters because of the state’s industrial status. Many people always felt that deer hunting in the Northeast was more of a “traditional” type of sport with “deer camps” a must if this type of hunting were to succeed.

The next five years surprised a great number of people. Paul Herig, who at that time was the Director of Wildlife, and his staff really did their homework over the following years and much of their research has been instrumental in producing a deer season with one of the highest tagging systems in the Northeast. This was not a simple endeavor, as many people would like to think.

Even back then, archery season opened the Connecticut deer season, and then it was followed by the Thanksgiving Day opening of the muzzleloader season (a.k.a. Black Powder), and then the shotgun hunters were allowed to hunt.

While the new deer seasons did help somewhat, it was still not ideal and falling short of what the DEEP expected in terms of deer being harvested. This was attributed to a number of things. First on the list was the fact that, in its beginning, the muzzleloader was a basically a primitive device and harvest numbers remained low.

But it also appeared that the black powder brigade seemed to be coming in with a higher buck kill while the main object of the hunt was to lower the doe numbers  It goes without saying that by the time the shotgun season came up, much of the Connecticut deer herd had wised up and had changed survival tactics.

While the deer harvest numbers did increase during the early shotgun season, the doe total was still much lower than what the biologists wanted to see. In 1990, this setup was changed with the shotgunners getting the first chance at filling a tag.

The thinking was shotgunners would be less “buck selective” in their hunting endeavors and, in essence, they were right. During the 1991 deer season, Connecticut’s season-ending tally stood at 11,305 deer, a 14-percent increase over the 1990 total.

Since then, there have been many changes in the Connecticut deer hunting seasons. At its beginning, state land hunters were allowed to hunt in a split season by lottery pick only. Today, there are more options even in the split seasons, with many areas being dedicated to no-lottery hunting, but you still have to have the right permits to hunt certain areas.

Over the years I have hunted various state lands and have seen deer in most of my hunts. The secret? Don’t be afraid to get way back in state lands to hunt. I have seen way too many supposed deer hunters setting up within sight of their vehicles and access roads.

Deer hunting is just that: HUNTING! I have seen a number of successful state land deer hunters over the years and these guys ‘n’ gals were there to hunt, and many were able to put their tag on a deer.

Spend the day in the woods and get a chance to admire all of Nature’s wonders, because that is an added attraction to hunting.

As an added note, I often wonder how many more vehicle/deer collisions there would be in Connecticut without a deer season. It’s worth thinking about.

Deer season on private land with shotgun or rifle runs now through Dec. 10. State Land Lottery shotgun-only “A” season is Nov. 20-29 and State Land Lottery “B” season No. 30-Dec. 10.

Hunting hours are ½ hour before sunrise to sunset. And don’t forget to wear your blaze orange. It is the law!

Turkey shoot

There is a shoot this Sunday, Nov. 24 at the Meriden Motorcycle Club on Stantack Road (1st left past Suzio/York Hill). It starts at noon. Call George Eddy at 203-886-6900 for more info.

South Meriden Memories

A limited edition of my book, South Meriden Memories, a trip into yesteryear and life in the Village of South Meriden during the 1940s and early 50s, is selling for $15 at Tom’s Diner in South Meriden or by mailing Mike Roberts. 102 Dogwood Lane Meriden, 06450.

See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving our great country.