Upper Valley Hunters Report Decent Deer Harvest in Vermont

  • Simon Mears, left, and Ralph Edson, right, both of Randolph, prepare to weigh the buck Mears shot Sunday morning, November 27, 2016, the final day of rifle season in Vermont, as Middlebranch Market and Deli clerk Quentin Nason, right, starts the paper work to record the kill in East Randolph, Vt. The deer weighed in at 154.3 pounds with its heart and lungs. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Phil Williams Jr., left, talks with his father Phil Williams Sr., right, both of Randolph Center, over coffee at the Middlebranch Market and Deli in East Randolph, Vt., during a break from the woods Sunday, November 27, 2016. Phil Williams Jr. said he had seen more other hunters than deer so far that morning. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Ralph Edson, right, raises the head of the deer shot by his hunting partner Simon Mears, left, to show fellow Randolph residents Eric Messier, second from left, and Spencer Lamson, second from right, after weighting the animal at the Middlebranch Market and Deli check station in East Randolph, Vt., Sunday, November 27, 2016. It was the 44th deer checked in at the reporting station during the two week season. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Simon Mears, of Randolph, left, ties his tag back onto the antler of the 154 pound buck he shot while hunting with Ralph Edson, of Randolph, right, after reporting the kill at the Middlebranch Market and Deli in East Randolph, Vt., Sunday, November 27, 2016. Mears estimated the deer to be four years old. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/28/2016 12:21:46 AM
Modified: 11/29/2016 4:21:50 PM

South Strafford — With daylight seeping through the wooded hills between Strafford and South Strafford on Sunday morning, Andy Silovich couldn’t help wonder — on his tenth day of stalking deer — whether he would end up waiting yet another year to bring home a trophy.

Then around 8:45 a.m. on the final morning of rifle season in Vermont, the Strafford resident, who describes himself as “more of a fisherman at heart,” found himself aiming at a wiry buck darting between the trees.

Two bullets and a little more than an hour later, Silovich was hanging the six-pointer — who appeared at one time to have sported eight tines in his rack before tangling with a rival — on the scale at the Vermont Fish & Wildlife check-in station at Coburn’s General Store in South Strafford.

“A hundred and twenty four,” Chrissy Coburn Jamieson declared the animal’s weight before lowering the deer back into Silovich’s pick-up and shooting a photo of the hunter lifting the buck’s head up by its antlers.

“I’ve been hunting for seven years,” Silovich said with a weary smile. “This is my first deer. It’s the first one I’ve ever shot at. I got lucky today. Very under the wire.”

At the store’s closing time at 2 on Sunday afternoon, Jamieson reported that 54 hunters had checked deer at Coburn’s since Vermont’s three-weekend rifle season opened on Nov. 12.

“That’s what’s been about the average the last few years,” Jamieson said. “There still could be more before the end of the day, and (hunters) have 48 hours after today to check in.”

At the Village Store in Thetford Center, the charts on the front wall showed that 72 hunters had checked antlered bucks on that station’s scale by noon on Sunday, the biggest being a 166-pound, eight-point buck that Scott Durkee, of Thetford, had shot the day before.

Village Store employee Cindy Carbee said that this year’s total had already exceeded the 65 reported there in 2015, when Orange County recorded 606 kills and Vermont the state recorded 6,628 during rifle season.

Counting all seasons — archery, youth weekend, rifle and muzzleloader — Fish & Wildlife reported at the end of 2015 that hunters harvested 12,747 deer last year, six percent fewer overall than in 2014. Hunters did, however, bag 8,330 bucks in 2015, a five-percent increase.

At the start of this fall, the state issued almost 19,000 deer permits, close to double the 2015 total, in part in response to a milder winter that saw more deer survive into the spring.

At Coburn’s, Jamieson said that she’s been noticing bigger, healthier-looking deer overall, among them a 192-pounder that by the end of Sunday was leader in the clubhouse in the wagering pool that an area snowmobile club holds every season for heaviest deer checked there.

Among the 72 hunters who brought their quarry to Thetford through lunchtime Sunday, Joe Blair, of West Fairlee, said he’d checked a six-point, 130-pound buck on the second day of the season, and was glad not to need longer, given recent snow and rain storms.

“I’ve been hunting for 35 years now,” Blair estimated after checking out the names and deer stats on his way into the Thetford store. “I get mine most years, three in all each year between (Vermont and New Hampshire).”

Andy Silovich, on the other hand, is just warming up.

“Some friends got me started a few years ago,” said Silovich, a 2005 graduate of Hartford High School who works as an engineer with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation. “My grandfather on my mother’s side hunted when the family was in Ohio, but my dad didn’t hunt. That’s why it’s taken me so long. It’s been a hell of a learning curve to get to this point.”

Silovich did see two of his five brothers take deer during Fish & Wildlife’s youth weekend on Nov. 5 and 6.

“I always plan for the worst when I go out,” he said. “That way if you get one, you’re very, very happy.”

Jamieson, who grew up in Strafford, has been observing hunters, both happy and sad, since early childhood, when her uncles dutifully headed into the woods amid the falling leaves each autumn. She has worked at the family store for 19 years.

“When I started, it was before people could sign up for their licenses on their computers,” Jamieson recalled. “Back then, my uncle (Philip Coburn) and I would be pretty much non-stop writing licenses out. We’ve lost business by the state allowing them to do it online. Besides the $1.25 we got for each license, if they come in the store, they’re more likely to shop.”

Jamieson added that she is glad to see younger hunters like the Silovich brothers take an interest in the sport, given the dwindling numbers of people, both from Vermont and elsewhere, who brave the elements to match wits with the iconic whitetail and, if fortune smiles, bring home some venison to stock the freezer for the winter.

“Some of it’s a natural progression,” Jamieson said. “Some of it’s a sad progression.

Andy Silovich would call it a challenging, and expensive, progression.

“I figure this is a $3,000 deer,” he said, “for the amount of time and effort involved.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.

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