New England's 2008 Deer Forecast -- Part 2: Where To Find Our Biggest Bucks
September 30, 2010
Over the last five years, New England's deer hunters have taken over 400 trophy-class whitetails. You can join their ranks, as our expert explains.
Though 2007's deer harvest numbers varied throughout the Northeast, in most New England states, trophy deer hunters did quite well.
According to the Northeast Big Buck Club -- the regional whitetail scoring and record-keeping organization -- a Massachusetts hunter established a new state archery record during the 2007 hunting season. And across the region, hunters downed more than 50 bucks measuring 150 inches or more. Over the last five seasons, New England's deer hunters have taken an eye-popping 400 trophy-class bucks!
Over the last few years, several new state records were set, and many bucks gross-scoring over 200 Boone and Crockett points were recorded.
Big bucks are harvested by archers, muzzleloaders, shotgunners and rifle hunters, so everyone has an even chance for success. The Northeast Big Buck Club reports that nearly 600 bucks from the past five years have qualified for entry to the NBBC record books, and of those bucks, more than 100 scored 150 or better.
During that five-year span, the top five bucks taken scored over 180.
Here's your look at the trophy-hunting potential in all six New England states:
The Bay State has recently gained a reputation as one of the region's top hotspots for trophy whitetails.
Over the last five seasons, Massachusetts has produced more NBBC record book bucks than any other New England state, with more than 600 new entries, including 140 bucks that each scored over 150.
During that time frame, in fact, this state has produced three bucks that grossed over 200 inches.
Last year, Massachusetts hunters continued to crank out a host of good bucks. In 2007, a new state-record archery non-typical (measuring 179 gross Pope and Young points) fell in the eastern part of the state, a year after a new state-record archery typical (185 7/8) fell in central Massachusetts. A new state-record muzzleloader non-typical scoring 190 1/8 was taken in western Massachusetts.
A giant shotgun buck (194 7/8) was taken in eastern Massachusetts as well.
In the center of the state, Worcester County -- comprising deer management zones 8, 9 and 10 -- perennially produces more trophy bucks each year than any other county in southern New England.
Zones 8 and 9 are always hotspots, and hunters who gain access in northern Zone 10 (Essex County) may also expect a shot at a trophy.
In recent years, bowhunters in southeastern Zone 11 (Plymouth and Bristol counties) have really cleaned up by gaining access to private land and connecting on mature bucks in small pockets of cover.
It is interesting to note that Norfolk County (near Boston) was responsible for this year's new state-record archery non-typical. And in 2004, a 210-inch road kill was found nearby!
To the west, towns in and around the Connecticut River Valley are showing signs of returning to their productive days again. They will probably continue to get hunted hard, given that several 170- to 200-inch bucks have been taken in this area over the last few years.
For more information about the Bay State's big bucks, contact the Northeast Big Buck Club, 390 Marshall Street, Paxton, MA 01612. Call (508) 752-8762, or visit the club's Web site at www.bigbuckclub.com.
The Constitution State is New England's sleeper state for big bucks, offering great trophy opportunities for deer hunters. Extended early and late archery seasons are sandwiched around a peak-rut gun season and an early-December muzzleloader season. The past five seasons were defined by several outstanding trophy bucks taken. While archers account for many of the state's best bucks each year, recent seasons have produced 170-class or better bucks in both the muzzleloader and firearms segments. Howard Kilpatrick, a Connecticut deer biologist, generally recommends the northeastern and northwestern regions (particularly Litchfield and Windham counties) as trophy hotspots. He attributes this to quality habitat and relatively low hunting pressure. This region also has some of the state's largest public lands.
The NBBC's records indicate that big bucks come from every county in the state. But during the past five seasons, more 150-class or better bucks came from Tolland than any other county. During that time span, many counties, including Middlesex, New Haven, Hartford, Fairfield, Windham and Litchfield counties -- pretty much the entire state! -- produced a dozen or more 150-class bucks.
In 2007, bucks scoring 160 or better fell in Tolland, Hartford and New Haven counties. The largest one of the year was a 184 5/8-inch muzzleloader buck killed in Tolland County.
For more information, visit the Northeast Big Buck Club's Web site.
Or try the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, State Office Building, Hartford, CT 06115.
Over the last five seasons, New England's deer hunters have taken an eye-popping 400 trophy-class bucks!
Or phone (203) 424-3011.
For many years, the Pine Tree State was the premier destination for serious trophy buck hunters in New England. And Maine hunters continue to harvest some of the biggest-racked (and certainly the heaviest) deer in the region.
In 2007, the statewide harvest of antlered bucks (16,103) was within 1 percent of the state's projected buck harvest. A little more than half the wildlife management districts reported harvests that were higher than projected. That year, the top five buck-producing WMDs (per square mile) were -- in descending order -- districts 24, 22, 21, 29 and 23, all of them in central and southern Maine.
Among those 16,103 antlered bucks taken in 2007, roughly 7,890 (49 percent) were 1 1/2 year-olds, or yearlings, while more than 2,093 (13 percent) were mature bucks, 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 years old. The overall buck harvest in 2007 was up from 2005 (15,000) and about the same as 2006 (16,149 bucks), but still well below totals from earlier this decade.
According to Al Wentworth, president of the Maine Antler and Skull Trophy Club, great bucks come from all three regions in Maine --northern, central and southern.
Trophy bucks recorded between 2004 and 2007 support this assertion, with bucks scoring over 170 gross B&C coming from all over the state.
The question is not, "Where do you find a trophy buck?" but rather, "What type of hunt do you want?"
The northern section of the state offers vast unpopulated territories with fewer deer. But if you do cross paths with a buck, it just could be one of those massive-racked 200-pound bruisers. The state's southern section is more densely populated with both deer and humans, with a higher number of hunters.
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.
It should be noted that most bucks are killed during firearms season. Muzzleloaders have done better in recent years, but archers take relatively few bucks compared to the rest of New England. Northern Maine has traditionally produced more 200-pound-class bucks, but recent difficult winters may have reduced the trophy deer population in some areas.
For more information, contact the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, 284 State St., Augusta, ME 04333. Or call (207) 287-5248, or visit the MDIFW's Web site at www.state.me.us/ifw.
The Granite State was a bright spot in 2007, setting a new record buck kill. Another mild winter once again helped boost deer numbers in many areas of the state and brought them closer than ever to the population objectives in many wildlife management units (WMUs).
The New Hampshire deer harvest in 2007 increased 15 percent, from 11,766 in 2006 to 13,559 in 2007 -- the second-highest since record-keeping began in 1922, and exceeded only by a kill of 14,204 in 1967.
The 2007 statewide kill of adult bucks (those 1.5 years old or older) was 7,667 -- a 15 percent increase from 6,678 in 2006.
The adult buck kill in 2007 was the highest in New Hampshire's history, exceeding by 12 percent the previous record of 6,855 in 2002.
Almost all WMUs had at least modest increases in adult buck harvest in the 2007 season. Bucks at 4.5 years old averaged 7.9 points; bucks 5.5 years old averaged 8.5 points.
According to Roscoe Blaisdell, president of the New Hampshire Antler and Skull Trophy Club, the largest antlered bucks seem to be coming from every portion of the state.
During 2006 firearms season, John Klucky killed a new state-record typical in Merrimack County that scored 199 5/8 gross and 187 2/8 net B&C points.
The best times for killing a trophy buck in New Hampshire include the opening days of the muzzleloader and firearms seasons and any Saturday.
WMU J2 near the southern Maine border tallied the most bucks for the sixth consecutive year with 1,236, followed by WMU M (1,132) at the southeastern most corner.
WMUs H2 and D2 were third and fourth, respectively.
Hunters planning on visiting New Hampshire may contact the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, 2 Hazen Drive, Concord, NH 03301. Or call (603) 271-3421, or visit the department's Web site at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.
For information on trophy deer in the Granite State, write the New Hampshire Antler and Skull Trophy Club (NHASTC), 22 Scribner Road, Raymond, NH 03077.
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 horns no longer fall under the definition of "legal" bucks.
The state's Fish and Wildlife Board re-defined a legal buck as "any deer having at least one antler having two or more points one inch or greater in length." The change was made in an attempt to address hunters' desire for larger numbers of older bucks, to halt declining deer numbers in some WMUs and to reduce the risk of spreading disease and parasites by feeding and baiting deer.
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, and then another 15 percent to over 8,950 in 2007. While the buck numbers are improving, the quality of trophy racks still lags.
The state's northwestern corner is a great bet. WMU A has the best ratio of bucks per square mile. WMU B accounted for the most bucks harvested last year, with 1,047 -- and has been No. 1 since 1996.
Along the New York border, WMUs K1, K2 and N south are always well above average. In terms of trophy bucks, NBBC records indicate that the five biggest-racked bucks taken during the last few years came from all across the state -- in Essex, Caledonia, Chittenden, Lamoille and Windham counties.
For more information, write the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, at 103 South Main Street, Waterbury, VT 05671-0501.
After a poor year for trophy bucks in 2005, little Rhody rebounded nicely in 2006, setting a new state record for archery typicals with a buck that scored 172 7/8 gross and 166 6/8 net P&Y points -- the state's new all-time No. 1. In 2007, an archer took that year's largest gross-scoring buck, a 160-class non-typical from Washington County.
Ocean State muzzleloaders have a unique opportunity to hunt during the rut, since the season runs through most of November. That's why Rhode Island produces more muzzleloader record-book entries than any other state in New England!
During the last three seasons, Washington and Providence counties produced most of the trophy bucks, including several that score over 160.
NBBC records show these two counties finishing at the top in terms of trophy buck potential, with Kent County at a distant third.
Many impressive big-bodied bucks were taken this past season. One muzzleloader hunter checked in an 8-pointer from Scituate that weighed 226 pounds dressed.
For more information, contact the Rhode Island Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, 4808 Tower Hill Road, Wakefield, RI 02879.
Or call (401) 789-0281, or log onto http://www.rihu