Vermont Deer Hunting
Vermont has high quality deer hunting due to a rural landscape, good habitat, lots of public land open to hunting, regulations allowing ample opportunities to hunt with archery, rifle, and muzzleloader, and plenty of deer.
The greatest deer densities are found in the northwest and southwest corners of the state and a few places along the Connecticut river. Generally, the Green Mountain range and the Northeast Kingdom have fewer deer but more remote country for hunters who like to get into bigger woods.
Vermont has a three-deer annual limit, only two of which may be legal bucks which must be taken during different seasons. Two archery licenses are allowed in archery season. November brings a youth weekend and the traditional 16-day rifle season for bucks with one antler having two or more points one inch or longer. A hunting license comes with a buck tag for the November rifle season. The muzzleloader season offers more deer hunting opportunity in early December with an additional muzzleloader license. Check for latest regulations at our website: www.vtfishandwildlife.com.
Deer Limits and Regulation Updates
Deer regulations are usually updated annually. The deer permit numbers for antlerless deer hunting for each WMU are issued in the late spring or early summer. After public notice and hearings, the Board lists the Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) that are open for antlerless deer hunting during archery season and during muzzleloader season by a lottery for a limited number of permits. Check the Fish & Wildlife website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) for these and other new regulations.
A person shall not take more than three deer in a calendar year, only two of which may be “legal bucks” (See definition below) which must be taken during different seasons. A hunter may take no more than one legal buck per season (youth, archery, rifle, muzzleloader). Although archery season is divided into an early and late portion, it is considered a single season.
Hunting hours are one-half hour before sunrise to one half hour after sunset. (See Sunrise/Sunset Tables.)
Deer must be tagged immediately when taken. The tag must be placed on the carcass open to view and remain there until the carcass is cut up for consumption.
A person taking deer shall within 48 hours report the taking and exhibit the carcass to the nearest game warden, official Fish & Wildlife Department Reporting Station, or to a person designated by the commissioner to receive the reports. No deer carcass shall be transported out of state without first being reported.
Deer hunters can contribute valuable information for the management of Vermont’s deer herd by 1) completing the annual rifle season hunter effort surveys should they receive one in the mail, and 2) reporting their deer at select biological check stations during the youth and rifle season weekend. This will enable biologists to record key information such as age, antler characteristics, and health of the harvested deer.
A tagged deer may be transported only during the open season and for 20 days thereafter.
Deer may be legally transported only under these conditions:
- By the person who shot the deer.
- When accompanied by the person who shot the deer (including moving the deer from kill-site to camp or motor vehicle).
- By a person who holds a mentored hunting license, unaccompanied by the fully licensed adult hunter.
- When transported by common carrier (for example, a shipping company) and tagged with the name of the consignor and consignee, name of station shipped from and its destination.
The appropriate deer tag must be securely attached to the deer in these circumstances.
When transporting parts of a deer, the parts or package must be marked with name and address of the person who killed the deer.
Deer do not need to be visible when transported.
Also, see the Transporting and Importing sections under Big Game and the general transporting section.
It is illegal to hunt or take any wild animal by using bait during any deer hunting season, except that trappers may use bait in taking furbearers. Bait is defined as any animal, vegetable, fruit or mineral matter placed with the intention of attracting wildlife. Artificial scents and lures are legal, provided they are not designed to be consumed by eating or licking. Deer lures containing any cervid urine, blood, gland oil, feces, or other bodily fluids, are illegal to use in Vermont.
It is illegal to take deer by using bait with the following exceptions:
- Incidental feeding of wildlife within active livestock operations;
- Standing crops planted and left standing as food plots for wildlife;
- Grain or other feed scattered or distributed solely as a result of normal agricultural, gardening, or soil stabilization, and logging practices; and
- Vegetation or food/seed naturally deposited.
It is illegal to feed wild deer at any time except:
- Under a license or permit issued by Fish & Wildlife for scientific research, mitigation of wildlife damage or nuisance problems, or wildlife population reduction programs;
- By planting, cultivating or harvesting of crops directly associated with agricultural practices, including planted wildlife food plots.
It is illegal to take a deer that is swimming in any lake, pond, river or other body of water.
Definitions of Terms for Deer Seasons
A white-tailed deer with at least one antler having two or more points.
An antler projection of at least one inch measured from its base at the main beam to its tip. A broken main beam shall count as a point, regardless of length.
Those deer without antlers or with antlers less than three (3) inches in length.
Deer with spike antlers may not be taken except during Youth Deer Hunting Weekend and only if allowed annually by the Fish & Wildlife Board.
Any person wishing to hunt deer with a bow and arrow during archery deer season must have an archery license/tag. A hunting or combination hunting and fishing license is required in addition to an archery license, except for nonresident archery-only deer license.
No more than two deer may be taken during the archery season only one of which may be a legal buck, not to exceed the annual limit. One legal buck may be taken during the two-part October and December archery season anywhere in the state. For purposes of the one legal buck annual archery season limit, the October and December seasons are considered one season and hunters may take only one legal buck during the entire season. In 2016, all WMUs were open to the taking of antlerless deer during archery season. Check Vermont Fish & Wildlife’s website (www.vtfishandwildlife.com) in August to see which WMUs are open to antlerless deer hunting in archery season.
Deer must be taken by bow (long bow, recurve bow or compound bow) and arrows or with crossbow by a person 50 years of age or older, or by crossbow by a person with a disability permit. The arrowhead must be at least 7⁄8 of an inch in width with two or more cutting edges.
It is illegal to carry a rifle, shotgun or muzzleloader while archery hunting deer in the bow and arrow season.
A hunter may possess a pistol or revolver while archery hunting. The pistol or revolver MAY NOT be used to take game or dispatch the deer.
A crossbow may be used by anyone 49 years of age or younger with a crossbow disability permit or by anyone 50 years of age or older to take any game that may be taken by bow and arrow. The crossbow disability permit is issued to a person so physically impaired that he or she cannot operate a standard bow and allows that person to hunt with a crossbow. A permit applicant must produce a licensed physician’s certificate certifying that the disability requires the use of a crossbow. Obtain an application from Fish & Wildlife before visiting your doctor. Applicant must also appear before a state game warden to obtain a crossbow license. Be sure to make an appointment ahead of time.
Unless it is uncocked, it is illegal to possess or transport a crossbow in or on a motor vehicle, motor boat, airplane, snowmobile, or other motor-propelled craft or any vehicle drawn by a motor-propelled vehicle.
Recovery of Bow & Arrow Deer After Hours
Contact a licensed leashed dog tracker to pursue and recover a deer wounded with an arrow after the close of legal shooting time. In the alternative, a hunter must secure permission from the state game warden by calling the nearest state police office, giving the exact location and circumstances. Any recovered deer must be tagged, reported and exhibited to the nearest game warden.
Vermont’s youth deer hunting weekend is on the Saturday and Sunday prior to the opening of the regular November rifle deer season.
A resident or nonresident youth, 15 years of age or younger on the weekend of the hunt, who has successfully completed a hunter safety course must obtain a free youth deer hunting tag to hunt during this season. The youth must also purchase a Vermont youth hunting license at a license agent by either showing proof of satisfactorily completing the hunter safety course or proof of having held a valid hunting license previously. The youth hunter’s parent or guardian must sign the hunting license application in the presence of the license agent.
When hunting, the youth hunter must be accompanied by an unarmed adult over 18 years of age who holds a valid Vermont hunting license. The adult may accompany no more than two youth hunters at any given time. The adult must have direct control and supervision, including the ability to see and communicate with the youth hunter without the aid of artificial devices such as radios or binoculars, except for medically necessary devices such as hearing aids or eyeglasses.
Landowner permission Is required by law in order to hunt on private land with a youth deer tag during youth deer weekend. All relevant game laws and regulations apply during the Youth Deer Hunting Weekend, including the prohibition on baiting and road hunting. Landowners are not exempt from the requirement to purchase tags to hunt on their own property on youth weekends.
A Vermont youth deer hunting tag is valid for one deer on youth deer hunting weekend in accordance with the rules of the Fish & Wildlife Board announced annually.
The amount of a fine will be doubled for a violation on Youth Deer Hunting Weekend, and the fine shall be assessed against the licensed adult who has the youth hunter in his or her charge.
One legal buck with at least one antler having two or more points may be taken anywhere in the state. A person shall not take more than three white-tailed deer in a year in all deer hunting seasons, only two of which may be legal bucks.
Muzzleloader license and hunting license required.
One legal buck with at least one antler having two or more points may be taken anywhere in the state. In addition, with an antlerless permit issued by the department, a person may take an antlerless deer within the authorized WMU. No more than two deer may be taken total, and a second deer may only be taken by hunters possessing an antlerless muzzleloader deer permit.
Definition of Muzzleloading Firearm
A single-shot, single-barrel rifle or smoothbore firearm with a minimum barrel length of 20 inches, designed to be fired from the shoulder or a single-shot pistol with a minimum barrel length of 10 inches. Both rifle and pistol must be incapable of being loaded from the breach without the use of tools, and must have a minimum bore diameter of 0.43 inches and an ignition system of traditional or modern flintlock, caplock, matchlock, in-line or wheellock style.
Definition of Ammunition for Muzzleloaders
Black powder or other suitable non-smokeless propellant, and a single ball or bullet.
Definition of Loaded Muzzleloader
The muzzleloading firearm shall be considered loaded when it has been charged with powder and projectile and is primed or capped.
A person who purchases a muzzleloader deer license shall not carry, while deer hunting during the muzzleloader deer season, any firearms other than one single-barreled muzzleloading firearm.