The Blue Hills Deer Management Program is part of DCR’s long-term effort to manage high deer densities within the Blue Hills Reservation. The primary objective and rationale for implementing a deer management program is to maintain an ecologically sustainable deer density that allows for the continuous growth and development of forest regeneration. In particular, DCR wishes to reduce the negative impacts that high deer densities have on the regenerating forest to ensure a healthy forest composed of adequate diversity of species and age classes.
Guide Blue Hills Deer Management Program
Context & Need for Deer Management
From the canopy to the understory, healthy forest ecosystems are made up of trees and plants of multiple species and age classes and the diversity of vegetation provides suitable and sustainable habitat for a rich and varied wildlife community. Forests that contain significantly high deer populations are vulnerable to excessive over-browse of young trees, shrubs, plants and other ground-cover. This excessive over-browse results in considerable negative impacts to overall forest health; including:
- reduced diversity in native plant and tree species (as deer leave behind only those species they prefer not to eat);
- increased spread of invasive plants that are resistant to deer browse;
- loss of tree species that serve as the next generation of tree canopy;
- increased susceptibility to environmental stresses, such as insect pests, severe weather-related disturbances, and climate change; and
- the destruction of vital habitat for insects, ground-nesting birds, and other wildlife.
Forests in Massachusetts are able to sustain deer densities below 20 deer/mi2. The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MassWildlife) also promotes a statewide deer management goal of 6 to 18 deer/mi2. Deer abundance surveys conducted in 2013 and 2017 by DCR and MassWildlife found that the Blue Hills Reservation contains deer densities in excess of this sustainable threshold. While some areas of the Blue Hills have higher densities than others, the overall density estimate for the Reservation (based on 2017 pellet count surveys) exceeds 50 deer/mi2. Details and results of deer abundance surveying in the Blue Hills can be found in the 2013 Deer Abundance Report and the 2017 Deer Abundance Report.
Blue Hills Deer Management Plans
Deer Abundance & Annual Program Reports
Controlled Hunt – How to Apply
In light of DCR’s commitment to long-term deer management in the Blue Hills and in order to continue the successful efforts undertaken between 2015 and 2017, DCR and MassWildlife will continue to implement controlled hunting in the Blue Hills in 2018.
Based upon the experience of implementing and assessing the outcomes of three controlled hunts and the success of controlled hunting efforts in 2017, DCR and MassWildlife will implement a controlled hunting plan in 2018 that essentially mirrors last year’s plan. While the 4-day shotgun hunt will remain exactly the same as last year, the permitted archery hunt will feature an additional 180 acres that have largely been hunted already in prior years during the shotgun segment of the controlled hunt. As such, there are no overall significant enhancements to this year’s deer management plan.
In 2018, hunters are allowed to submit applications for both the permitted archery hunt and the controlled shotgun hunt. However, any hunter selected to participate in both hunts will be required to select which hunt they will participate in.
All applicants must possess at valid 2018 Massachusetts Hunting or Sporting License BEFORE applying. In addition, all applicants for the controlled shotgun hunt who live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts must have a valid FID card or License to Carry.
Licensed archery hunters must complete and submit an online application to DCR.
DCR will conduct a random lottery to select a single group of 100 archery hunters to receive access permits. DCR will also select a pool of alternate hunters to draw from should a permitted hunter be unable to participate in the hunt. Selected alternates must complete the required orientation in order to be included on the final list of alternates.
The 2018 permitted archery hunt will take place in designated areas of the Reservation on Mondays through Thursdays between November 5th and November 21st.
Permitted Archery hunting will be allowed in 956 acres of the Reservation. Selected archery hunters will not be assigned to a particular area while hunting. To view a map of the areas that will be opened to archery hunting, please click on the following link: 2018 Blue Hills Permitted Archery Hunt Map
Licensed shotgun hunters must complete and submit an online application to DCR. Applicants have the option to apply as an individual/solo hunter or to apply with up to one (1) partner/co-applicant.
The 2018 controlled shotgun hunt will take place on the following four (4) days:
- Week 1: Tuesday, November 27th and Thursday, November 29th
- Week 2: Tuesday, December 4th and Thursday, December 6th
Applicants are required to choose on their application which week they prefer to hunt. Each hunter will be permitted to hunt for two (2) days.
DCR will conduct a random lottery to select permitted hunters. DCR will select two (2) separate groups of 131 shotgun hunters. Applicants will be grouped and selected according to the dates chosen on their application. The first group of hunters will be permitted to hunt during the first week and the second group of hunters will be permitted to hunt during the second week.
DCR will select a pool of alternate hunters to draw from should a permitted hunter be unable to participate in the hunt. Selected alternates must complete the required orientation in order to be included on the final list of alternates.
Of the more than 7,000 acres that comprise the Blue Hills Reservation, 3,951 acres will be opened to shotgun hunting. To view a map of the areas that will be opened to shotgun hunting, please click on the following link: 2018 Blue Hills Controlled Shotgun Hunt Map
HOW TO APPLY
The 2018 application period is now closed.