PROVIDENCE - The Department of Environmental Management reminds all Rhode Islanders that, for safety reasons, they must wear fluorescent orange when in state management areas during the shotgun deer hunting season, which opens on Saturday, December 1.
Hunters are required to wear 500 square inches of fluorescent orange during the shotgun season. Throughout all shotgun deer seasons, all other users of state management areas also must wear at least 500 square inches of solid, daylight fluorescent orange material. For all hunters and management area users, the orange clothing should include a hat and vest worn above the waist and visible in all directions. Archers are exempt from wearing hunter orange in areas of the state that are limited to hunting by archery-only. Deer hunting hours remain one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset.
Deer management zones have been established for harvesting deer in accordance with specific management goals. The need to reduce auto strikes and address nuisance deer issues as well as health-related Lyme disease issues are important deer management concerns and integral to maintaining quality hunting. A zone map is available in the 2012-2013 hunting abstract available on DEM's website, www.dem.ri.gov. Hunters should check DEM regulations for specifics as to where hunting is allowed, and should also check with local authorities for additional hunting restrictions.
The first portion of the shotgun season for deer in Zone 1 and Zone 2 runs from Saturday, December 1 through Sunday, December 16. The second portion of the shotgun deer season opens Wednesday, December 26 through Wednesday, January 2, and during this time hunters may hunt only on private lands for antlerless deer in Zones 1 and 2. The statewide bag limit is three antlered deer and antlerless deer as follows: Zone 1, four antlerless deer and one replacement tag; and Zone 2, three antlerless deer. Shotgun deer hunting is not permitted in Zone 3 (Prudence Island).
The season for shotgun deer hunting in Zone 4 (Block Island) will be open on select weekdays through February 28th, as published in the state's 2012-2013 Hunting and Trapping Abstract. Hunters should call the New Shoreham Police Department at 466-3220 for check station information. The bag limit on Block Island, where only private land will be open, is five antlerless deer, with additional permits available.
New This Year: Small Game Season Will Remain Open during Shotgun Season
Several significant regulatory changes have been enacted for the 2012-2013 hunting seasons. The small game hunting season will remain open throughout the entire shotgun portion of the deer hunting season. Also, in an effort to improve hunter safety and reduce unnecessary wounding of animals, the use of buckshot in any gun is prohibited during the deer season.
Deer permits are now being sold as antlered deer (buck) permits or antlerless deer permits. Either sex deer permits are no longer available. Hunters must have the appropriate deer tag in their possession to legally harvest any antlered or antlerless deer. Resident hunters may purchase one "All Outdoors" package permit for use in Zones 1 and 2 to take up to eight deer during the established seasons. "All Outdoors" permits are available only from DEM's licensing office.
Free replacement tags for deer are issued by DEM's Office of Boat Registration and Licensing after a hunter harvests two antlerless deer in Zone 1 and upon the hunter providing evidence of having tagged the antlerless deer. The replacement tag may be used to take an additional antlerless deer. To qualify for the replacement tag, hunters should bring two field tags to DEM's Boat Registration and Licensing office to document having harvested two antlerless deer in Zone 1.
Deer permits are available at DEM's Office of Boat Registration and Licensing at DEM Headquarters, 235 Promenade Street in Providence on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and at selected hunting vendors throughout Rhode Island. The cost of each deer permit for residents is $12.50; for non-residents, the cost is $25.50 for each permit. The cost for the resident "All Outdoors" deer permit is $75.00.
Hunting Contributes to Rhode Island's Economy
In addition to providing an opportunity for residents and visitors to engage in outdoor recreation, hunting contributes to the economic health of the state. According to the most recent statistics from the US Fish & Wildlife Service's National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (2006), residents and tourists spend $10 million annually in Rhode Island on hunting-related expenditures including food, lodging, transportation, and equipment. The survey also notes that a combined total of $378 million is spent annually in Rhode Island on trip and equipment-related expenditures for fishing, hunting, and wildlife-watching activities.
All deer hunters are required to obtain written permission annually for all deer hunting on private lands. DEM has developed a courtesy card, available on the DEM website, for hunters and landowners to sign which gives the dates for permissions, and contains A Hunter's Pledge regarding principles of conduct. The Department encourages private landowners to allow hunters to hunt deer on their property, where feasible, during deer hunting seasons as this is a sound management technique that benefits deer habitats and regulates population growth.
Hunters are required to report their animals with 24 hours of harvest by using a simple, postage-paid kill report card supplied by DEM. The report cards replace the need for hunters to check deer and turkey at vendor check stations during most of the deer and turkey hunting seasons. Deer must be tagged in the field, with a valid deer tag for the appropriate season, immediately upon taking. Kill report cards are available in the 2012-2013 Hunting and Trapping Abstract and at hunting license vendors and DEM offices.
DEM is joining much of the country in conducting a systematic Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) surveillance program. The RI deer herd has been tested for CWD annually since 2002 and no evidence of the disease has ever been found. The disease is fatal to all deer and members of the deer family, including moose and elk; however, infected deer may show no outward signs of being sick until the later stages of infection. CWD has been identified recently in Pennsylvania from a sample collected at a deer farm in that state. Both Massachusetts and Connecticut are CWD-free states. Hunters are asked to call DEM's Division of Law Enforcement at 222-3070 if they observe any sick or emaciated deer, or any deer displaying abnormal behavior.
Hunters can donate their surplus game, properly processed, packaged, and refrigerated, to a number of local food kitchens through the Hunters and Fishermen for the Hungry program, coordinated by DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife in cooperation with the Rhode Island Food Bank. The Division maintains a list of locations, updated regularly, where fish and game may be donated, and has also prepared a booklet with guidelines on handling game and fish for donations, as well as a collection of game and fish recipes for the food kitchens. All of this information is available on DEM's website, www.dem.ri.gov, by clicking on "Topics", then "Wildlife/Hunter Ed" under "Outdoor Recreation/Fisheries". An information packet is also available by calling the Division at 789-0281.