MANCHESTER - Rifle season is officially over - hello muzzleoader and archery week. Although we experienced our first snowfall of the year the day after rifle season ended, the snow will provide those who participate during muzzleoader and archery season with a distinct advantage over the elusive white-tailed deer.

According to the 2011 Vermont State White-tailed Deer Harvest Report, Bennington County had 510 deer reported during rifle season, a statistic that Scott Darling, Wildlife Management Program Director of the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, said could rise this year.

Local hunter Kenny Noble bagged this deer near Pawlet, an 8 point buck that weighed in at 164 lbs.
Local hunter Kenny Noble bagged this deer near Pawlet, an 8 point buck that weighed in at 164 lbs. (courtesy photo)

As a local hunter himself and from what he has heard in the rumor mill, Darling said that these warm winters have caused the deer population to sustain its numbers or even grow, but the lack of winter food for the deer have made foraging somewhat difficult for them and made it harder for hunters to track where they might be.

Bennington County also had 189 deer reported taken during muzzleloader season in 2011, which Darling also sees as following the same path previously stated.

Muzzleloader season and archery season both begin Saturday, Dec. 1 and end Sunday, Dec. 9. For those who do not know the difference between rifle season and muzzleloader season - there is quite difference.

A muzzleloading firearm is different from a any other type of rifle.

A muzzleloader is a single shot, single barrel with a minimum barrel length of 20 inches. They are designed to be shot once and to shoot again you must reload the gun, which takes time and patience. The ammunition for a muzzleloader consists of black powder, which is poured down the gun's barrel followed by a a single bullet.

In order to participate in muzzleloader season a hunter must have a valid hunters license as well as a valid separate muzzleloader hunting license.

Anterless deer can be shot and killed during muzzleloader season only when a hunter has obtained the appropriate permit. Hunters can purchase an anterless deer permit issued by the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department which allows them to shoot and kill an anterless deer, defined as a deer without antlers or with antlers less than three inches long. Some counties in Vermont are not open to anterless deer permits; however Bennington County and Rutland County are.

Hunters should keep in mind that a single hunter may not kill more than three deer in one calendar year in any combination of season (archery, youth weekend, November rifle season, and December muzzleloader season).

Although some hunters may be close to getting their third deer, Kenny Noble, a local resident, shot the first deer of his life last weekend and was thrilled to have that experience under his belt.

"I found him out in the middle of a field about 7:30 a.m., Saturday morning," he said. "He was all by himself, no does around. He sat there long enough for me to get a good shot at him. Got him in the front shoulder. He ran 40 or 50 yards then down he went."

Added Noble, "It happened so fast I didn't have any time to get all shook up but boy I was shaking when it was all over."

Noble's deer was an eight-pointer weighing in at 164 pounds.