Vermont Hunters Hit the Trail For Opening Day of White-Tailed Deer Season

  • Riley Earle, 15, and her father Jim, both of Bridgewater, Vt., check in a deer she shot at 7 a.m. on Nov. 10, 2018. It is a five-point, 128 pound buck. Riley has been going hunting with her father for the past three years. (Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Eric Lang, of Plymouth Vt,  checks tracks in the snow that did not belong to deer in Plymouth Notch, Vt., on the opening day of Vermont’s rifle season on Nov. 10, 2018. (Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Jarrod Kurash of Plymouth Vt., walks across a field in Plymouth Notch, Vt., on the opening day of Vermont’s rifle season for deer hunting on Nov. 10, 2018. Kurash was hunting with his father, Ralph Kurash, of Hartland, Vt,. and they were planning to check another spot in Proctorsville after getting coffee. (Valley News - Rick Russell) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, November 10, 2018

Even as wet, mild weather appeared to limit deer activity for opening day of white-tailed rifle season in Vermont, the conditions on Saturday did little to dampen the enthusiasm of eager hunters, especially those who look forward each year to getting in the woods with family.

From 50-something-year-old brothers who’ve been hunting together since they were teenagers to families representing four generations at once, even a slow day in the woods was cause for celebration.

“It’s really about getting us all together,” said Kara Mace, of Hartland, who hunted near Union Village with a large group of family bedecked with orange hats and camouflage.

Kara’s father, Brett Mace, was happy to be hunting with his grandchildren, Cody and Brian Mace, as well as a with great-grandson, Braxton Mace. “When the cold weather comes in, that’s when (deer) really start going after food and you see more of them,” Brett Mace said. “When it’s like this, they stay up in the thick woods.”

Not everyone had as much trouble spotting bucks. It snowed overnight in Corinth and Topsham, allowing hunters there to follow tracks. Scott Magoon, of East Corinth, reported an 8-point 160-pounder to the East Corinth General Store just after 9 a.m.

“He ran right at me,” said Magoon, 55, who’s been deer hunting since age 14 and holds the muzzle loader record in New Hampshire for a 277-pound buck he shot 20 years ago. “They’re a little bigger in New Hampshire, something in the genes. But I still love hunting here because it’s where I grew up.”

Magoon was hunting with his son-in-law, Corey Coburn, and the family has recently recruited Magoon’s daughter and Coburn’s wife, Crystal Coburn, as well as their daughter, Chloe, into the hunting fray. A photo of Chloe with a 107-pound deer she shot during youth hunting weekend earlier this month hangs on the wall at East Corinth General Store.

While overall Vermont hunting licenses have declined significantly — the state issued around 62,800 of them last year compared with more than 105,000 in 1990, according to figures compiled by Vermont Fish & Wildlife — Magoon says you wouldn’t know it in his part of Orange County.

“It’s still a big thing around here,” Magoon said. “If opening day were on a school day, a lot of kids would be taking the day off.”

Recent Oxbow High graduate Evan Lanphear, of East Orange, Vt., found nothing but “a pile of tracks” while hunting with his friend Randy Batten, of Woodsville, on Saturday. The 18-year-old Lanphear said he’s been hunting for half his life.

“There were a lot of kids in my (high school) class who hunt, but also some kids who are really against it,” he said.

The Thetford Center Village Store had reports of four deer by 10:30 a.m., including a 6-point, 165-pounder killed by Jason Cook, of Norwich. Just after 10:30, 50-year-old Robert O’Keefe, of White River Junction, entered to report another 6-pointer, this one 120 pounds and shot while hunting with his brother, Joe O’Keefe, in Thetford.

“It’s going in the freezer — well, at least some of it is,” Robert O’Keefe said. “I can never get it in there without sharing.”

Steve’s Bait Shop in North Hartland had checked in six deer just before noon, including a 156-pound, 8-pointer and a 7-pointer weighing 184.

“That’s pretty good, I’d say average or a little better than average for this time of day,” store co-owner Jill Metivier said about the turnout. “(Friday) was exciting because we had a lot of people coming in here to renew their licenses.”

Four hunters had reported deer by around noon at Tracy’s Midway Station in Sharon, including one of a 7-point, 158-pounder, according to clerk Yvonne Thurston.

Other official reporting stations were lighter on yields. No hunters had entered Wing’s Market and Deli in Fairlee or Teago General Store in South Pomfret as of noon, and Kevin Ricker, who records from his home in Vershire, hadn’t had any visitors.

Wet weather can do more than deter deer from movement. Sometimes it has the opposite effect and causes hunters to move — as in move indoors.

David Mclam, who records deer reports from his home butchery in Bradford, had seen only a pair of hunters come in as of noon.

“Sometimes when the weather’s like this, people who think they’re going to stay out till noon end up calling it quits by 9 if they get cold and wet,” he said.

Indeed, plenty of hunters got an early start. At New Hope Methodist Church in Waits River, Vt., an annual hunters breakfast served 23 of them at 4:30 a.m. and 60 by the time it wrapped up at 9.

“That’s better than we’ve had in recent years,” said parishioner Debbie Huntington, of Corinth, who helped serve food. “I think a lot of people were excited to get out this year.”

Vermont rifle season continues through Nov. 25.

New Hampshire’s white-tailed deer rifle season begins on Wednesday for any deer and continues for antlered deer only Thursday through Dec. 2.

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.