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VG reporting station will serve as educational hub

10/18/2007

By Ky Koitzsch

I give great credit to Troy Kingsbury, owner of the Village Grocery in Waitsfield, for establishing an official Vermont "big game" reporting station in the Mad River Valley, and for being the driving force behind the creation of the timber frame game pole.

Not only is it a good place to "hang" your deer (as stated in The VR's article last week) it also holds other important values. It is a meeting place where Valley residents, hunters and non-hunters alike, can observe part of the culture of deer hunting, can meet to share stories of their experiences with wildlife, and learn more about hunting and wildlife management in Vermont. It is a means of bringing revenue from hunters into The Valley for small business owners. It is an important source of biological data for state wildlife biologists to aid in the continued management and long-term health of our Vermont deer population. It is a venue for hunters to exhibit their sportsmanship and respect for the animals they hunt. Hunting is part of the fabric of Vermont's history. It is a healthy source of recreation and a means of bringing many generations of Vermonters together to enjoy a common bond. And, whether you are a hunter or not, you would be hard pressed to find a better source of local, healthy red meat.

As an avid deer hunter, wildlife biologist and Mad River Valley resident, my interest in and support for Troy's reporting station is to reaffirm and support the tradition of deer hunting in Vermont. Like it or not, because we have actively removed the most important natural predators of deer from the ecosystem (wolves and cougars), and because we continue to reduce the quality and quantity of winter habitat in Vermont, particularly through development, hunting is the only viable means of controlling the deer population.

Without natural predation, deer have the potential to exceed the ability of their habitat to sustain them often resulting in high winter mortality. For example, the deer population in Vermont was reduced to almost half following the consecutive severe winters of 1969 and 1970. Looking back, it was apparent that the available habitat in Vermont was not able to support such a large deer population. Following another harsh winter in 1979, the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department instated the first and very controversial antlerless deer season to help reduce the number of deer until the habitat could regenerate to where it could support a larger and healthier deer population. It seems now that deer population numbers are more in sync with habitat quality and that the State's new management plan, enacted in 2005, which restricted the age of a buck taken to two and a half years and older by prohibiting the harvest of "spike" bucks, is currently providing a quality deer hunting experience in the state of Vermont and should continue doing so into the foreseeable future.

In order for the Fish and Wildlife Department to assess the results of their management plans, it is important to gather information from harvested animals from reporting stations like the one at the Village Grocery. In addition to determining the number of deer harvested in a season, biologists gather information on the age, sex and weight of each animal, indicators of the age structure and health of the herd. Requiring hunters to report any deer taken at an official reporting station is also a means of ensuring that each hunter does not exceed his or her annual harvest limit. (For 2007, the limit is two deer per year per hunter.) For information about hunting opportunities in Vermont and the management of both game and non-game species, you can contact The Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife in Waterbury at 241-3700 or look them up on-line at http://www.vtfishandwildlife.com /.

In the Mad River Valley, there was a need for a local big game reporting station as the closest two are in Roxbury and Northfield. Troy reports that, as of October 16, hunters from 15 different towns including Williston, Middlebury, North Ferrisburg, and even Highgate Center have brought their deer in to be weighed and recorded at the Village Grocery. I wish him great success with his new venture and thank him again for his dedication to The Valley community. For hunters and non-hunters alike, Troy's reporting station can serve as an educational hub where information about hunting, big game and non-game species biology and ecology, wildlife habitat and hunter education can be obtained.   

Koitzsch lives in Fayston and is the owner of Alces Post & Beam, which built the weigh station.
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