CONCORD - 2018 is a biennial season-setting year at NH Fish and Game. Data from New Hampshire's hunting seasons are reviewed every year to monitor the status of game species, but, unless otherwise necessary, changes are recommended every two years to make sure that season dates and bag limits are in line with population goals reflected in the state's ten-year Game Management Plan. Proposed revisions are based on a review of field data and other scientific information.
The initial hunting season proposals were approved by the NH Fish and Game Commission in February. The rule notice is expected to be published in the NH Register in March. When the rule is available, the complete rulemaking notice will be published on the Fish and Game Proposed Rules page at www.wildnh.com/legislative/proposed-rules.html.
Three public hearings on the season-setting proposals have tentatively been scheduled for:
- March 30, 2018 -- Fish and Game Region 1 Office in Lancaster;
- April 2, 2018 -- Keene High School, LGIA Room;
- April 3, 2018 -- N.H. Fish and Game Department, Concord.
Following are some highlights of the initial proposed 2018 wildlife rule package being put forth by NH Fish and Game; please note that it is a synopsis and is not all-inclusive:
New Hampshire's regional deer, bear, and turkey populations are stable or increasing. As a consequence, Fish and Game is in a position to propose additional hunting opportunity in various regions of the state. Hunting season recommendations are science-based; they maximize hunting opportunity while safeguarding the broad ecological, recreational, and economic values that wildlife represents to our diverse citizenry, consistent with long-term wildlife population goals and objectives spelled out in the Department's existing game management plan.
Deer: New Hampshire's 2017 deer seasons resulted in our 5th highest deer harvest and highest antlered buck take in 95 years. The Wildlife Division's 2018 deer rule proposals call for enhanced hunting opportunity in 11 of the 20 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) in our state. These opportunities include additional either-sex hunting opportunities in 9 WMUs (C2, D2W, E, F, G1, G2, I1, I2, J1); the provision of 2,000 antlerless-only permits for use in WMU L (permits to be issued via an online lottery); and allowance for the use of crossbows during the archery season in WMU M only.
The proposal package also includes establishment of a Deer Management Assistance Program to support special deer management needs at the town level for areas with documented impacts associated with overabundant deer populations. It also fulfills a statutory obligation to create regulations pertaining to the feeding of deer. In a nutshell, the regulations give the Department the authority to regulate deer feeding when evidence indicates that said feeding is causing deer mortality or is threatening public safety.
Bear: New Hampshire's bear population is thriving. Bear populations have recently grown above goal in two of our state's six bear management regions: the White Mountains Region and the Central Region. As a consequence, the Wildlife Division has proposed adding 7 days of bait hunting and 9 days of still hunting to the existing bear season in the White Mountains and Central regions. In addition, the Department is proposing to add 14 days of still hunting in the Southwest-2 and Southeast Regions. Even with this addition, the bear seasons in these regions will still constitute the most conservative in the state.
Turkey: The Wildlife Division's wild turkey proposals call for a spring season that runs from May 1 through May 31 beginning in 2019. This constitutes a proposed departure from our longstanding May 3 opening day. Also beginning in 2019, the proposal package allows for the taking of a second spring gobbler in our six strongest turkey Wildlife Management Units (H1, H2, J2, K, L, and M). The annual bag limit would remain at two birds; if you took a second gobbler in the spring, you would not be able to take a bird in the fall. Turkey hunters are again reminded that if these proposals are adopted, they would not go into effect until the spring of 2019!
Moose: Upon careful review of our moose data, and consistent with our existing moose management plan, the Wildlife Division is recommending the issuance of 51 either-sex moose permits for the Fall 2018 moose season. In addition, 1 permit will be allocated for use by New Hampshire's Hunt of a Lifetime program and 1 permit will be allocated for use by the New Hampshire Wildlife Heritage Foundation. This allocation of permits is the same as was issued in 2017. The 2018 rule proposal package also calls for a 1-month expansion of our gray squirrel and cottontail rabbit seasons by adding the month of January, and reductions in the length of our fisher and red and gray fox hunting and trapping seasons.
Updates on the 2018 biennial season-setting process may be found on Fish and Game's website at www.huntnh.com/hunting/season-setting.html.