If early meetings between Deer & Tick Committee members and hunters were sometimes marked by skepticism and contentious disagreements, the meeting on September 26 was without rancor or complaints.
Instead, it was a genuine effort to address ways to increase the number of adult does culled to reduce the herd to a manageable number.
Committee Chairman Mike Scheibel set the one for the meeting, telling the hunters, “We don’t have all the answers. We have some of the answers. We’re looking to you for input.”
“We’re prepared to reward you,” Animal Control Officer Beau Payne reminded the hunters, and a key question Councilman Jim Colligan asked is if the financial incentives are effective in motivating hunters to take more deer.
“We’re at a crossroads,” Mr. Colligan said.
The town wants to avoid using paid sharpshooters in preference for local recreational hunters, he added, but needs locals to take more deer if culling the herd is to be successful.
The hunters agreed that sharpshooters wouldn’t be welcomed on the Island, saying hunting has to be done by residents who know the area to ensure maximum safety.
Mr. Payne said about half the hunters he speaks with tell him they are making an effort to take more deer in order to qualify for entries into a lottery system that gives winners gift cards for sporting goods equipment.
There appeared to be some interest among the 14 hunters in attendance to becoming Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators, (NWCO) eligible to take deer in the Island’s February and March deer damage season.
Deer damage hunting helps communities overrun with deer by allowing special licenses issued by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to hunt outside the regular hunting seasons.
To qualify for NWCO status, hunters must to take a test and be part of the town’s regular deer hunting crew who shoot on specific properties between October 1 and January 31.
Hunter Bruce Raheb suggested the town pick up the tab for NWCO permits, but Mr. Payne resisted, saying the permit could be used in other areas beyond Shelter Island. For Shelter Island to pay for the permits would be paying for a private enterprise, he said.
Mr. Payne stressed the importance of getting more Islanders to allow hunting on their lands, both during the deer damage months and the rest of the town’s hunting season.
In many cases, these are areas where residents aren’t living during the off season and there are tight restrictions imposed by the DEC and the town.
There are restrictions about how far away from houses the hunting must occur and in a neighborhood where residents live close to one another’s properties, one neighbor objecting to the hunt could stop others from letting their lands be hunted.
Residents could request specific days and hours when they would be allowed to have their properties hunted, so if they are weekenders who don’t want the hunters in the area they can set such restrictions, Mr. Colligan said.
Mr. Payne said he was pleased to find many residents responding to the recent survey indicating they would be willing to have their properties serve as hunting sites. He is in the process of working through those surveys and determining which properties might work for the deer damage permit period.
Another incentive the committee hopes will help hunters is a new cold storage unit where hunters can bring deer, whether to donate to the town’s program that provides free butchered meat to the public, or for their private use.
Those wishing to claim the deer meat will find it in a freezer at the Recycling Center.