New Year Brings New Hunting Seasons

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Hunting seasons in Suffolk County were extended this year as a way to deal with the large deer population on the East End. Photo courtesy of Friends of the Long Pond Greenbelt and Jill Musnicki. 

By Mara Certic

Several amendments to New York State hunting regulations have gone into effect this year in an effort to encourage recreational hunters to increase the deer harvest as one means of managing the expanding white-tailed deer population on the East End.

The regular bowhunting season, which historically has ended on December 31 and includes weekends, will now be extended through January 31. The special firearms season, which began on Sunday, January 4, will end on January 31 and will, unlike previous years, allow for weekend hunting.

These are two of the amendments that came from legislation sponsored by State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle.

“The recent population explosion of white-tailed deer on Eastern Long Island threatens public health, public safety, personal property, and the environment,” Mr. Thiele said in a release.

“Local municipal deer management plans describe the uncontrolled increase in population as an emergency, requiring immediate action. Without controlling the deer population, human health and safety will continue to be put in jeopardy,” he added.

In response to the new regulations, East Hampton Town has updated its code to try to keep bowhunters and shotgun hunters as far apart from one another as possible.

The town only has jurisdiction over town-owned parkland, with private properties and state parkland coming under the purview of the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“On town properties, where big game gun hunting is occurring, bowhunting is not allowed at all,” explained Andrew Gaites, the senior environmental analyst in the town’s Department of Land Acquisition and Management.

“However, the town has plenty of properties open to bowhunting with no gun hunting allowed, so we updated our code to reflect that,” he added.

The changes were made in order to prevent hunter conflict, Mr. Gaites said. The required setback for bowhunters was recently reduced from 500 feet to 150 feet, giving them more opportunities than shotgun hunters. This new law will give shotgun hunters full access to the few lands that remain open.

Town permit quotas have been increased to reflect deer management needs, and next year several new permitting requirements will come into effect.

Despite the extended season, the state has declined to open its parkland in Montauk to additional hunting, meaning there will be no January bowhunting or any weekend gun hunting.  There will also be no weekend gun hunting in Noyac, according to the DEC.

Bill Crain, founder of the East Hampton Group for Wildlife, spoke up at East Hampton’s work session on Tuesday morning, admonishing the town for allowing weekend hunting on town-owned land.

“Who suffers from this decision?” Mr. Crain asked. “The deer. I imagine what it’s like to be a deer out there. It’s just very upsetting to have any empathy for these animals.”

Human residents of the East End will also suffer, he said, as the new regulations will make weekend walks in the woods more dangerous.

“Another victim is democratic decision-making,” Mr. Crain said, adding that the town should have publicized its hunting rule changes.

For more information about hunting in Suffolk County visit dec.ny.gov/outdoor/hunting.

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