East End lawmakers have spent years wrangling state legislators to try to allow bowhunters to hunt closer to houses, as the increasing suburbanization of the region has left hunters with far less ground to hunt.
They got their wish this Monday with the passage of the 2014-15 state budget, which includes a provision allowing bowhunters within 150 feet of homes. All other hunters are required to stay at least 500 feet from homes.
Southold Town Board members have been among the most active proponents of the change, pointing out that if you draw a circle with a radius of 500 feet centered on each of the homes in the town, there is very little huntable ground left.
Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell has cited the restriction as one of the prime reasons the town was left with few options but to call in a controversial group of USDA sharpshooters to cull their deer herd over the past month.
Governor Andrew Cuomo included the hunting change in his draft budget, released in January, stating that it “would maintain a safe distance for engaging in the sport while making available for hunting more lands in suburban areas, which would increase hunting opportunities, and help manage locally over-abundant deer populations.”
The state budget also now allows crossbow hunting in upstate New York, but not on Long Island, where only compound bows may be used.
Both the prior DEC restriction and the newer, more lenient restriction, apply to houses where hunters do not have the owner’s consent to hunt. Under the old regulation, if homeowners consented or the property was owned by the hunters or their immediate family, they could hunt closer than 500 feet from houses.
Most hunters, however, are not hunting in their own backyard.
Though hunters can now hunt on lands open to hunting that are within 150 feet of houses, they are still not permitted to hunt on private property without consent of the homeowner.
“I am pleased New York State has eased the restriction on bow hunting because more land will available for hunting, which is an important component in controlling the deer population,” said Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell after the changes were announced earlier this week.
East Hampton Town has just this week added a deer management page to their website, which provides contact information for hunters and landowners to help coordinate deer management on private property, and information on the town’s arial survey of the deer population and tick-borne illnesses.
“We are optimistic that we will be able to work in cooperation with landowners and hunters who come forward to learn more about the rules and regulations set by NYSDEC and work toward bringing the deer population in East Hampton to a more sustainable level,” said Town Councilman Fred Overton, the liaison to the Town Deer Management Advisory Committee.