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
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
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 email@example.com
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.