New England's 2007 Deer Outlook -- Part 2: Where To Find Our Biggest Bucks

New England's trophy deer are making waves among serious hunters of late, with bucks in the 200 class showing up in the most unusual places. Here's where to find your buck of a lifetime this season. (November 2007)

Photo by Mike Lambeth.

During the 2006 hunting season, New England's deer hunters took several new record-class bucks while downing more than 50 bucks that scored 150 inches or better. In fact, hunters have taken an eye-popping total of 350 bucks of that size in New England during the last five seasons (2002-06)!

How many trophies will fall in 2007?

According to the Northeast Big Buck Club -- the region's whitetail scoring and record-keeping organization -- great bucks may be found in every corner of New England, from densely populated southern Connecticut to the vast, wild lands of Aroostook County in northern Maine.

Over the last few years, several new state records were set, and many bucks scoring over 200 gross Boone and Crockett points were recorded.

Here's a look at all six states' recent trophy harvests and the areas most likely to produce your buck of a lifetime in 2007!

MASSACHUSETTS

Over the last five seasons, the Bay State has produced more NBBC record-book bucks than any other New England state. More than 600 new entries to the NBBC record book include 140 bucks scoring over 150 inches. During that time frame, in fact, this state has produced three bucks that gross over 200 inches.

In 2006, a host of mega-bucks fell all across the state to archery, shotgun and muzzleloader hunters. Last year, according to the Northeast Big Buck Club, a new state-record archery typical buck (185 7/8) was taken in central Massachusetts. A new record muzzleloader non-typical (190 1/8) was taken in western Massachusetts, and a giant shotgun buck (194 7/8) was taken in eastern Massachusetts.

Obviously, great bucks can literally be found anywhere in the state.

There's been a noticeable shift in hunting pressure (and deer kills) from west to east: More eastern hunters who used to travel west to find big bucks are finding better luck in their own back yards!

In the center of the state, Worcester County (Deer Management zones 8, 9 and 10) produces more trophy bucks each year than any other county in southern New England. Zones 8 and 9 are perennial hotspots, and hunters who gain access to private lands in northern Zone 10 (Essex County) may also expect a shot at a trophy.

Meanwhile, in southeastern Zone 11 (Plymouth and Bristol counties), bowhunters may have good luck by connecting on a mature buck in a small pocket of woods. It's interesting to note that Norfolk County (near Boston) produced a 210-inch road-killed buck in 2004!

To the west, towns in and around the Connecticut River Valley are showing signs of returning to their productive days once again. They will probably get more attention because a host of 170- to 200-class bucks have been taken in this area in the last few years.

For more information about big bucks in the Bay State, contact the Northeast Big Buck Club, 390 Marshall Street, Paxton, MA 016123. Or you can visit the club's Web site at www.bigbuckclub.com, or call (508) 752-8762.

CONNECTICUT

Extended early and late archery seasons are sandwiched around a peak-rut gun season and an early December muzzleloader season, making for some great hunting under a variety of conditions in the Nutmeg State.

The past five seasons were distinguished by several outstanding trophy bucks being taken. The NBBC reported that more than 550 bucks from the past five years have qualified for their record books, and over 100 of those bucks scored 150 points or better. During that five-year span, the top four bucks scored over 180.

State biologist Howard Kilpatrick generally recommends the northeastern and northwestern regions (Litchfield and Windham counties) as trophy hotspots. This he attributes to quality habitat and relatively low hunting pressure, and this region has some of the state's largest public lands.

During the past five seasons, more 150-class or better bucks -- a total of 17 -- came from Tolland than any other county. During the same time frame, many counties produced 10 or more 150-class bucks, including Middlesex County (central), Fairfield (southwestern), Windham (eastern), Litchfield (western), Hartford and New Haven (both central) counties.

For more information, contact the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, State Office Building, Hartford, CT 06115. Or you can call (203) 424-3011.

MAINE

For many years, the Pine State was the destination for serious trophy buck hunters in New England. Maine hunters continue to harvest many of the biggest deer in the region. The overall harvest was up from 2005, as was the buck harvest.

Over the last five seasons, the Bay State has produced more NBBC record-book bucks than any other New England state.

In 2005, just fewer than 15,000 bucks were harvested. But in 2006, hunters took 16,149 bucks -- a substantial increase, though still down from just more than 17,400 in 2004 and a high of 20,000 as recently as 2002.

Al Wentworth is president of the Maine Antler and Skull Trophy Club. According to him, great bucks exist in all three of Maine's regions -- northern, central and southern.

The northern section of the state boasts vast, unpopulated territories with limited numbers of deer. But if you cross paths with a buck, it could by one of those massive-racked 200- pound bruisers.

The southern section of the state is more densely populated with both deer and humans. It produces many trophy bucks, but also offers the best chance to simply fill your tag.

The central region -- which includes everything from the Penobscot River to the Kennebec River and from the lower sections of Somerset and Piscataquis counties to the northern sections of Penobscot County -- offers the best of both worlds, with reasonably good deer densities and plenty of open land to hunt.

The statewide harvest of 16,149 antlered bucks) in 2006 was within 1 percent of the projected buck harvest, with a little more than half of the WMDs reporting a higher harvest than projected.

The top five buck-producing WMDs (per square mile) during 2006 were (in descending order) districts 24, 21, 29, 22 and 23. All are in central and southern Maine.

Among the 16,149 antlered bucks taken in 2006, roughly 8,326 (or 51 percent) were 1 1/2-year-olds (yearlings). More than 1,776 (11 percent) were mature bucks, 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 years old. It was estimated that in 2006, over 172,000 hunters took to the woods to hunt deer.

Overall, 71 percent of the deer registered were by residents. Estimates of success vary, with resident (including landowner) any-deer permit holders having a 26.8 percent success rate overall, versus 22 percent for non-resident hunters.

Maine's statewide post-hunt deer population was estimated at 218,700, or 7.6 deer per square mile during 2006.

For more information, contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 284 State Street, Augusta, ME 04333. Call (207) 287-5248, or visit the MDIFW at www.state.me.us/ifw/homepage.htm.

For details on Maine's trophy buck records, interested hunters may contact Al Wentworth of MASTC at (207) 564-7614.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

For the last three years, winters that were milder than average combined with limited antlerless deer seasons have helped increase whitetail numbers in many areas of the Granite State and have brought deer numbers closer to population objectives in many wildlife management units (WMUs).

This has helped buck harvest numbers as well. The 2006 total kill of 11,766 was an 11 percent increase from 2005 and represents approximately 14 percent of the pre-hunt deer population.

The statewide percentage of adult males consisting of yearlings for the 2006 harvest was 46.2 percent, a decrease from 51.2 percent in 2005.

According to Roscoe Blaisdell, president of the New Hampshire Antler and Skull Trophy Club, the heaviest bucks tend to come out of the northern portion of the state, particularly Coos County.

The best bets for killing a buck in this state include opening days of the muzzleloader and firearms seasons and any Saturday.

Of course, most of the annual bucks harvested are taken during the firearms season, with archers and muzzleloaders accounting for about 35 percent of the adult male harvest.

WMU J2, near the southern Maine border, tallied the most bucks for the fifth consecutive year (8,883), followed by WMU M (751) in the southeasternmost corner.

During the 2006 firearms season, John Klucky in Merrimack County killed a new state-record typical, scoring 199 5/8 gross and 187 2/8 net B&C points.

Hunters planning on visiting New Hampshire are encouraged to contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, 2 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03301. Call (603) 271-3421, or visit the NHFG Web site at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.

Information on trophy-deer hunting in New Hampshire is available from the New Hampshire Antler and Skull Trophy Club (NHASTC), 22 Scribner Road, Raymond, NH 03077.

VERMONT

The biggest change in Vermont's deer seasons in more than 100 years occurred during 2005. In an effort to reduce the harvest of juvenile bucks, spike-horn bucks were not included in the definition of a "legal buck."

Spike-horns had averaged about 35 percent of the total buck harvest.

When authority to manage deer was taken away from the Vermont Legislature and handed over to Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department biologists, they immediately recommended restricting the harvest of spike-horn bucks as the most effective -- and socially acceptable -- means to significantly increase the number of bucks living in to older age-classes.

Vermont's habitat is similar to other New England states, but until now, it has failed to produce the kind of top-end bucks that would rival deer produced in neighboring states such as Massachusetts or New Hampshire.

According to the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, the antlered buck harvest in all seasons increased 58 percent, from 4,956 in 2005 to 7,805 in 2006.

Over the last five seasons, the NBBC has scored and recorded only six bucks with gross B&C scores of 150 inches or better, compared to more than 130 bucks that score over 150 inches from neighboring Massachusetts during the same time period.

For more information, contact the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, 103 South Main Street, Waterbury, VT 05671-0501.

RHODE ISLAND

After a poor trophy-buck year in 2005, Little Rhody rebounded nicely in 2006, setting a new state record for archery typicals.

In Newport County, Stephen Ponte arrowed a 172 7/8-inch gross and 166 6/8-inch net Pope and Young 10-pointer that is the new No. 1 all-time typical in the state.

During the last three seasons, Washington and Providence counties produced most of the state's trophy bucks, including several that score over 160.

Muzzleloader hunters have a unique opportunity to hunt during the rut (the season runs through most of November). So it's no surprise that Rhode Island produces more muzzleloader record-book entries than any other state in New England!

For more information, contact the Rhode Island Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, 4808 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, RI 02879.

Call (401) 789-0281, or check out www.HuntRI.com.

Find more about New England fishing and hunting at:NewEnglandGameandFish.com

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