Sportsman’s Corner: Shotgun Deer Season Opens Monday

  • The Hunter Orange requirements for both firearms seasons are 500 square inches of hunter orange on the chest, back and head required, regardless of the hunting implement you are using.

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 11/28/2019 5:00:22 PM
Modified: 11/28/2019 9:40:14 PM

The statewide deer harvest in Massachusetts for 2018 was 14,551, a new record high for the state. Given the number and condition of deer taken already by bow hunters, that record may not last long. There are a lot of reasons for that prediction, most from history. Dr. Steve Williams, deer biologist for MassWildlife before moving on to jobs in Pennsylvania, Kansas and then serving as the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has been a close friend for years. He once explained to me that anything that happens to the deer population, good or bad, would show up two years later when the deer from that year reached the breeding age. Given the weather and harvest totals from the recent past, there is room for optimism. The big if is the weather, of course, and with a strong possibility of snow for the Monday opener, the hunter success should be high.

Given that a significant portion of the harvest is deer taken on the opening day and first Saturday, when the highest number of hunters are afield, there should be good numbers of deer checked in. There have been many changes to deer hunting regulations since this writer first got a license. Back in the late ‘60s, antlerless permits were established which required hunters to take only deer with at least one antler of at least three inches in length. Does could be taken by those who held an antlerless deer permit and the number of those permits issued was determined by biologists to reach population goals. The management methods have clearly been successful as the harvest back then was around 3,000 and we are not over 14,000 with all indexes used to determine the health of the deer herd well above average.

Over time, other changes have included increased seasons for shotgun hunting, archery season and the institution of a season for primitive forearms that is now two and a half weeks. While shotgun hunters once killed a lion’s share of the deer, the harvests of the archery, shotgun and primitive arms seasons are now nearly balanced. One thing which remains constant is the fact that in the two firearms seasons, hunter participation is a huge factor in the number of deer taken as hunters in the woods move deer and create opportunities for other hunters.

In Massachusetts, management of deer is done using the 3 distinct seasons using 15 wildlife management zones. Right now, MassWildlife estimates that there are more than 100,000 deer across the state. The Fisheries and Wildlife Board oversees changes to the hunting seasons, bag limits, and antlerless deer permit numbers. The shotgun season opens Monday and runs through Dec. 14. The following Monday, Dec. 16 the primitive arms season opens, and it will end on Dec. 31. Hunting is prohibited on Sundays.

Hunting hours begin ½ hour before sunrise and end ½ hour after sunset except on WMAs stocked with pheasant or quail during the pheasant or quail season where hunting hours are sunrise to sunset.

To hunt white-tailed deer in Massachusetts you must have the appropriate license, permits, and stamps which you can buy through the MassFishHunt web site. Those participating in the primitive arms season need to possess the current stamp for that season. Only antlered deer (3 inches on one side) are legal unless you possess an antlerless deer permit for the zone in which you are hunting.

The season limit is two antlered deer per year and as many antlerless deer as you have valid antlerless deer permits for. You may have 2 unreported deer from Wildlife Management Zones (WMZ) 1-12 in your possession and 4 unreported deer when hunting in WMZs 13 and 14. Reporting is required within 48 hours of harvest. There is no daily limit. If you have unused antlered tags or antlerless permits, you may continue hunting after reporting your harvest.

During the shotgun season you may use shotguns with a rifled bore, not larger than 10 gauge. Slugs or buckshot only. Archery equipment and primitive firearms may be used during the shotgun season. Handguns are not allowed for deer hunting and may not be in your possession while deer hunting.

The Hunter Orange requirements for both firearms seasons are 500 square inches of hunter orange on the chest, back and head required, regardless of the hunting implement you are using.

It is illegal to hunt deer using bait, dogs, electronic calls, rifles or handguns. You must report your game within 48 hours of harvest and must fill out and attach the paper tag from your permit on the carcass immediately after harvesting a deer. The game must remain intact, (other than field dressing), with the harvest tag attached until it is reported. Once reported, the metal seal or harvest tag with confirmation number must remain attached to the carcass until prepared for food or taxidermy purposes. When transporting the deer, some portion of the carcass must remain visible until it has been reported. You must bring all deer harvested during the first week of shotgun season to an official check station for biological data collection.

Good luck all who venture out during the remaining deer season. Be considerate of all others, particularly landowners, and be safe.

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