Fishkill Ridge
Community Heritage

Development, Hunting, and Deer

   

Photo of the Newburgh Beacon Bridge Poughkeepsie Journal
Thursday, February 10, 2005

As land is subtracted, deer multiply, State weighs herd-thinning ideas
By Dan Shapley

New proposed changes to the state's hunting laws will expand certain hunting seasons and encourage hunters to kill more does and fewer young bucks.

But they won't give hunters like Stanley Quick and James DuBois what they need: more land to hunt on.

Local hunters are increasingly concerned that development is fast consuming the private farms and forests once open to hunters. Their concern comes as the deer herd has grown so large that many consider the animals a nuisance.

''Environmentalists are not the only ones who have ill feelings towards developers,'' said Quick, 39, a Town of Fishkill resident and lifelong resident of southern Dutchess County. ''Many hunters and fishermen, including myself, are disgusted with the amount of development going on in this area. It is out of control.''

He once hunted where Wal-Mart and several hotels now stand near the busy intersection of Route 9 and Interstate 84 in Fishkill. He hunted in old orchards now filled with houses. Of the 11 places he used to hunt 10 years ago, none are open to hunters anymore because of development on or near the land, he said.

Sounds of development

When he hunts now, he hears chain saws, wood chippers, traffic and hammering from new construction. He's worried the one place he still hunts will be lost because dozens of new homes are to be built on adjacent land.

''A lot of people I know who used to hunt got so disgusted they just stopped buying licenses,'' DuBois said. He and Quick said they may do the same.

The Department of Environmental Conservation has expanded state lands open to hunters at forests and multiple-use areas over the years. But the DEC estimates nearly two-thirds of hunters use private lands.

The agency identified the dwindling availability of land as a key issue when it began its periodic re-examination of its deer management policy in 2000, spokeswoman Maureen Wren said. A major component of the problem, Wren said, is that large forests and fields have been carved up into small stands of trees and yards separated by homes and stores.

In response, the DEC is analyzing various deer management strategies that can work in suburban environments, such as sterilizing deer or altering habitat.

''While those techniques are being evaluated by DEC, we continue to encourage private landowners to assist in management of deer by providing access to their land,'' Wren said.

In 2000, the Cornell University Human Dimensions Research Unit surveyed Dutchess County land owners with more than 25 acres. Eighty-two percent had posted ''no hunting'' signs on parts of their land. They wanted to control their property and were concerned about liability and safety. Most allowed hunting access only to friends, family and acquaintances, but not strangers.

The DEC estimates 200,000 deer were killed in the 2004 season, down 20 percent from 2003 and down 35 percent from 2002.

There is no data available that tracks the amount of private land open to hunting.

Quick would like to see the state preserve more land for hunting and encourage towns to restrict development to preserve open space. He wouldn't mind paying more taxes to see it happen.

''Quite frankly, our way of life is being destroyed,'' he said. ''This is something a lot of us really, really love. This is lifeblood for some of us.''

Longer seasons proposed

The DEC has proposed expanding the archery and muzzleloader seasons, and encouraging the hunting of does. Muzzleloaders are traditional black powder guns.

Land managers, including those at the Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook and the Mohonk Preserve in Ulster County, permit hunting aimed at female deer because it reduces the overall population better than hunting bucks.

The state's proposed changes would also begin a pilot study in parts of Ulster County, restricting buck hunting to deer with at least three or more points on one antler. Sportsmen's groups have requested this to allow more bucks to mature and improve hunting enjoyment.

A variety of factors have led deer to become, in many people's minds, a nuisance. Deer adapt well to suburban environments. With fewer hunters and less open land to hunt on, fewer deer are killed. The prolific deer cause car crashes, eat gardens, destroy farm crops and damage forest ecosystems.

Walter Klein said deer eat about 30 percent of the hay crop on his Town of Beekman farm.

''There's very little hunting out here,'' said Klein, 72, a lifelong Beekman resident. ''There used to be so much open land. Now, they're coming down into my fields.''

Dan Shapley can be reached at dshapley@poughkeepsiejournal.com

Hunting hearings

The DEC will hold two local hearings this month to discuss proposals for new deer hunting regulations and other issues related to the management of New York's deer herd. For details, visit www.dec.state.ny.us

- Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Ulster Community College's Quimby Theater in Stone Ridge.

- Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Dutchess Community College's Dutchess Hall Theater in Poughkeepsie.

 

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