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Former Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry will give a presentation on ruffed grouse hunting with his award-winning bird dogs at an upcoming small game hunting seminar in Randolph.

Arlington man charged in deer poaching case

Michael Crawford, 31, of Arlington, Vermont was arraigned on Monday August 15 following an eight-month investigation by game wardens, spurred by a tip to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department's Facebook page. The tip linked to a photo of Crawford on his Facebook page posing with an 8-point white-tailed buck that he allegedly took during Vermont's 2015 November deer season.

Crawford's Facebook post generated complaints and comments that the deer had been shot at night with a rifle. Crawford is a locally known convicted felon and not allowed to possess a firearm.

In an initial investigation, Crawford reported he harvested the deer on November 16 in Danby and that it was a 183 lb. 8-point buck taken with a muzzleloader. Additional investigation and input from responsible sportsmen revealed that the deer was taken in the Village of Manchester in the area of Union Street.

A direct witness reported that the deer was shot at about 8:00 p.m. with the aid of car headlights in a field adjacent to Union Street and Richville Road.

At his arraignment, Mr. Crawford pled "not guilty" in Bennington Superior Court to the charges of taking big game by illegal means – second offense, and taking game by illegal methods – the headlights of a car. He faces a fine of $1,000 to $2,000 for each offense and possible imprisonment for up to 60 days. He also faces a possible restitution charge of up to $2,000 for killing the buck.


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Getting to know crossbows seminars

The new Vermont regulation on hunting with crossbows goes into effect for this fall of 2016. Now is the perfect time for crossbow hunters to become acquainted with them. The seminars will allow you to shoot a crossbow, either your own or ones that the instructors will have there for you to try before you buy or hunt with one. Vermont Fish and Wildlife through the Hunter Education Program is sponsoring four free seminars, "Getting to know Crossbows" in August and September. The free seminars will run approximately three hours and all participants will have a chance to shoot a crossbow. Hunters are reminded that crossbows are legal only for adults 50 and older starting in 2016, or for those who quality now for a crossbow permit because of a disability. However, the use may be expanded in the future. The seminars are open to anyone interested in learning about crossbows. Crossbows differ from regular bows in a number of ways. They are not the long-range hunting tools many make them out to be. For instance, you actually cock your crossbow, minus the bolt (arrow), before getting into a tree stand. Seminar topics also include crossbow basics, hunting techniques, important safety tips such as tree stand safety, suspension trauma, getting down from the tree if you have fallen and are suspended in your safety vest. Information like this makes these seminars invaluable. The seminars are taught by hunter education instructors Clint Gray and Mike Jennings who also hunt with crossbows. Online registration is requested by going to vtfishandwildlife.com and clicking on the Hunter Education page. A confirmation e-mail will follow after registering.

Walk-ins are welcome

• Aug. 20 Marty's Sport Shop. Bennington, noon

• Aug. 28, Chelsea Fish and Game, Chelsea, 10 a.m.

• Sept. 10, Caledonia Forest and Stream, St. Johnsbury, 10 a.m.

• Sept. 17, Lamoille Valley Fish and Game, Morrisville, 10 a.m.

Hunter education courses offered

It's back to school season for would-be hunters.

With most hunting seasons just around the corner, the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department is urging new hunters to sign up now for a hunter education course.

Classes fill up quickly, but securing a spot is easy with Vermont Fish & Wildlife's online Hunter Education Program registration system. All would-be hunters, trappers and bowhunters are required to complete their respective course before purchasing their first license.

"Classes are held throughout the year, but their numbers peak now through early fall," said Nicole Meier in Fish & Wildlife's Hunter Education Program. "This is the time to sign up and complete a course, because once hunting seasons begin, our volunteer instructors want to be out in the field."

To find your course, enroll at www.register-ed.com/programs/vermont. The system includes maps and directions, instant confirmation and reminder emails, and a function that allows you to contact a course instructor directly. You can view the number of open spaces remaining in a course and receive email notifications when new courses become available in your area.

For would-be hunters finding it hard to fit a traditional course into their hectic schedule, the department now offers online options. The online Homestudy Basic Firearm (hunting) and Trapper Education courses allow students to learn and complete the written portion of the content before attending a hands-on field day by completing a workbook or online course. Just be sure to sign up for a homestudy class before starting.

New this year, the Hunter Education Program is also unveiling online bowhunter education homework, available here: https://www.bowhunter-ed.com/vermont/

The Vermont Hunter Education Program's 350 volunteer instructors certify almost 5,000 students annually. The course and all materials are provided free of charge through funding provided by the Federal Aid in Sport Fish and Wildlife Restoration Program. There is no minimum age, but most materials are written at the sixth grade level.

You also can access online course registration through the department's website (vtfishandwildlife.com). For more information or if you need help signing up for a class, call the Hunter Education Program at 802-828-1193.

Small game hunting seminar

Interested in cooking up locally-sourced grouse, squirrel or rabbit in your kitchen this fall? Vermont Fish & Wildlife will be holding a "Small Game Hunting" seminar focusing on bird, rabbit and squirrel hunting.

The seminar will take place on Aug. 27, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Randolph Fish & Game Club in Randolph.

Tom Jones of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department will lead the seminar off with a workshop on hunting rabbits with beagles. Former Fish & Wildlife Commissioner Patrick Berry will give a demonstration on hunting ruffed grouse with his award-winning bird dogs. And Eric Nuse, retired game warden and creator of the 'Vermont Wild' book series, will give a squirrel hunting workshop. The seminar will conclude with a shooting workshop hosted by Randolph Fish and Game.

"Both experienced and first-time small game hunters stand to benefit from this seminar," said John Pellegrini, hunter education training coordinator with Vermont Fish & Wildlife. "This is an absolutely all-star lineup of presenters of current and former Fish & Wildlife Department staff as well as volunteer instructors. Not only are they knowledgeable instructors, but they're also fantastic story-tellers. It's sure to be a fun time for everyone involved."

The seminar is free and includes lunch. Sign up by Aug. 24 at vtfishandwildlife.com. Space is limited to the first 30 signups and seminars fill up quickly, so sign up as early as possible. For more information, call John Pellegrini at 802-272-2909.

Reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities are available upon request. Please include a description of the accommodation you will need. Individuals making such requests must include their contact information. Please send an e-mail to: Catherine.Gjessing@Vermont.Gov or call the office staff at 802-828-1000 (voice), 1-800-253-0191 (TTY).

Vermont bear hunting starts Sept. 1

Vermont's bear hunting season starts Sept. 1, and hunters can improve their chances if they scout ahead of time to find fall foods such as wild apples, beechnuts, acorns, and berries — where bears will be feeding.

"Fall foods for bears are more scarce than they were last year," said Vermont's bear biologist Forrest Hammond. "Bears will be feeding along power lines and in forest openings and old fields where berries and apples can be found as well as in forested beech and oak stands. They also are likely to be feeding more on standing corn this year."

Vermont has two bear hunting seasons. The early bear hunting season, which requires a special bear tag, starts September 1 and continues through November 11. The late bear season begins November 12 and continues through Nov. 20. A hunter may only take one bear during the year.

Hammond says Vermont's regulated bear hunting seasons help in managing the state's population of about 5,500 bears.

"Twenty-five years ago Vermont had less than 3,000 bears, and they were found mostly in the mountains and northeastern quarter of the state," he said. "Although we have successfully increased bear numbers, the human population has also risen, resulting in more encounters between humans and bears. Carefully regulated hunting helps control the growth of the black bear population and allows for their sustainable use, while decreasing interactions with humans."

"Hunters are reminded to collect a small pre-molar tooth from each harvested bear," Hammond added. "The collection of a premolar tooth is critical to the bear project as it provides important data on the age structure of the bear population and for making population estimates."

A video showing how to remove the tooth is on the Fish & Wildlife website and YouTube channel. (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0n3i91OAXGc&feature=youtu.be)

Hunters took 665 bears last year in 189 Vermont towns.

Hammond asks hunters in southern Vermont to avoid shooting bears with yellow ear tags and GPS collars because they are valuable animals in the Deerfield Wind bear study.

A Guide to Bear Hunting in 2016 is available online at http://tinyurl.com/gp49uo7