Into the Woods: Your Guide through Rhode Island's Hunting Season
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has made some significant changes this year to its annual Hunting Abstract pertinent to both hunters and non-hunters. These changes are addressed in a two-part review.
"The emotions that good hunters need to cultivate are love and service more than courage. The sentiments of the hunt then become translated into art."
— James A. Swan, Ph.D., In Defense of Hunting, 1994
Establishment of Deer Management Zones
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management has established two separate Deer Management Zones for the 2010-2011 season — Zone 1 and Zone 2. The split aims to reduce deer strikes, control of Lyme disease and maintain an ecologically sustainable deer population.
The management zones also aim to foster cooperation netween hunters and landowners.
To find which zone the land you hunt is in, refer to page 21 of this season's Hunting Abstract.
"I created an index looking at the habitat available relative to the number of deer struck on the roads in these various towns," said DEM Wildlife Biologist Brian Tefft. "It came up that we had a very clear pattern developing in those coastal communities where there might be areas difficult to hunt, private land with no access for hunting, or owners reluctant to allow hunting. The result was we had a very distinct area where the auto strikes were disproportionately high to the amount of habitat available for deer."
When hunting deer on lands in Zone 1 — those coastal communities referred to by Tefft — hunters must "earn a buck" during the archery portion of the season, meaning they must harvest one antlerless deer before harvesting a buck. This measure looks to encourage the harvest of does, a practice more effective at reducing population size than hunting only bucks.
After harvesting two antlerless deer, a hunter in Zone 1 will be issued a tag for either gender for additional harvest, free of charge, further encouraging doe harvest.
The second segment of both muzzleloader and shotgun seasons on private land in Zone 1 is extended by 14 days — ending on Jan. 16 — as opposed to Zone 2 and state lands, ending on Jan. 2.
Quotas also vary between these two zones and state lands. According to page 3 of the Hunting Abstract: "State lands constitute separate management units (within private land zones) and as such, deer may be harvested on state lands in addition to the harvest bag limits established for Zones 1 and 2." In other words, for separate management areas, there are separate and different quotas for hunters to meet.
Ruffed Grouse Closed Statewide This Season
"There's some concern over the decline in Ruffed Grouse in Rhode Island and hunter harvest over the last few years have been minimal at best," Brown. said "It was actually an issue brought up by the public during the public comment period."
DEM biologists will be surveying the Ruffed Grouse population to determine what future management actions might be necessary.
What to Hunt, and Where
Uses of state management areas are restricted in some cases. (For a complete list of all state management areas and the types of hunting allowed on each, check out page 18 of this year's Hunting Abstract.)
Management areas stocked for pheasant include Arcadia, Black Hut, Big River, Buck Hill, Carolina, Durfee Hill, Great Swamp, Nicholas Farm, Seapowet, Simmons Mill Pond and 8 Rod Farm. Fields are stocked through the end of December, and the bag limit is two of either sex birds per person daily.
The chances of success increase exponentially with scouting, especially with deer. Do your research and familiarize yourself with the area in which you plan to hunt. Knowing the lay of the land will also help in tracking after taking the shot.
When choosing a spot, consider safety foremost, open shooting lanes, whether or not you'll be hunting from a tree stand and proximity to game trails. Look for evidence of bucks rubbing their antlers against trees, prints in the mud, and scat. Other factors might include proximity and path to both water and food crops. As always, observe and respect posted land.
Hunting on private land might increase your chances of success as opposed to a state management area, due to the less intense use of private land by the public.
For waterfowl, do your scouting and know which areas a particular species are at specific times of day while staying mindful of weather conditions. It never hurts to go for a drive within the few days before a planned hunt to get a feel for recent waterfowl behavior.
When using a firearm, crossbows included, it is illegal to discharge within 500 feet of any occupied dwelling without written permission, regardless of land ownership. It is also illegal to hunt with a bow and arrow within 200 feet of any occupied dwelling.
Safety and fluorescent orange
If all else fails, follow the Ten Commandments of Firearm Safety.
All users of state management areas, other than hunters, are required to wear at least 200 square inches of fluorescent orange (a hat) from the third Saturday in October until the last day of February every year.
All users, including hunters, are required to wear 500 square inches of fluorescent orange (a hat and vest) during shotgun deer season, from Dec. 14 through Dec. 12 and Dec. 26 through Jan. 16.
Otherwise, the following hunters are required to wear 200 square inches (a hat) of fluorescent orange:
- Small game hunters during small game season.
- Fall turkey hunters while traveling.
- Muzzleloader hunters during the muzzleloader deer season.
- Archers headed to and from stands during the muzzleloader deer season only.
Local Prohibitive Ordinance
The following is a sample of some local ordinances in common hunting areas:
- Waterfowl hunting on Mill Cove in Wickford is prohibited.
- Waterfowl hunting on Fishing Cove is prohibited to the west of a line to be determined. The area is marked by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, bisecting Cornelius Island. Discharge of firearms is restricted to an easterly direction from the line.
- Waterfowl hunting on Belleville Pond is restricted to the northwest segment, designated by DEM signs. Firearms can only be discharged toward open waters. By town ordnance, waterfowl hunting is restricted until after Nov. 15. While not in the hunting area, all firearms must be cased.
- Firearms cannot be discharged within 600 feet of any "posted property" signs by town ordinance.
- The portion of the Seekonk River north of Red Bridge to a line running between the intersection of Gulf Road and River Drive down to the southern abutment of the rail bridge at Omega Pond will be closed to waterfowl hunting. Firearms can only be discharged toward open water.
- Discharge of firearms is restricted toward open seaward water only from Pawtuxet Cove (Washouset Point) to Fields Point and including Stillhouse Cove.
- Hunting within 500 feet of occupied buildings from the shoreline or from a watercraft is prohibited.
Additional restrictions may exist. Check with the local town hall to learn local ordinances pertaining to hunting.
Always make sure you have all of the required permits to hunt. A list of all state permits is printed on page 7 of the Hunting Abstract. Federal waterfowl stamps are available at your local post office.
As you head out into the woods or over field or water this season, remember safety always comes first. Remember to hunt ethically and hunt with those who do so as well.
A crucial part of the process is for experienced hunters to take out those who may not have the opportunity to hunt to pass on a tradition of safe, sound, ethical and ecologically conscious hunting.
"We're a very suburbanized, urbanized state," Brown said. "There's a lot of different culture here. There are many people who grew up with hunting or trapping with their father or grandfather, but there are many people who have never been involved in hunting or fishing or anything like that."
The 2010-2011 Hunting Abstract is available here: http://www.dem.state.ri.us/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/huntabs.pdf
The 2010-2011 Waterfowl Hunting Abstract is available here: http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/bnatres/fishwild/pdf/fowlabs.pdf
The full list of Hunting Regulations for the 2010-2011 hunting season are available here: http://www.dem.ri.gov/pubs/regs/regs/fishwild/hunt1011.pdf
The full list of Hunting Regulations for the 2010-2011 Waterfowl Season are available here: http://www.dem.ri.gov/pubs/regs/index.htm#FandW
For additional wildlife related topics, including Hunter Education, visit http://www.dem.ri.gov/topics/wltopics.htm