Town opens area for deer hunting

A deer in a backyard in the East Passage Estates. An area on the north end of the reservoir property has been re-opened for hunting to help cull the herd.

A modified 37-acre section of municipally owned land north of the reservoir has been reopened to bow hunting.

The town council at its meeting Tuesday night passed the request by Angela Deneault, interim police chief. The section at North Pond was open to hunting, along with three other sections of public land, when a collaborative program was established in 2014 to cull the deer herd. To qualify to hunt on these properties, hunters had to be proficient with their weapons and receive approval from the police chief.

When the bike path opened in 2019, however, the council decided to close the reservoir section to hunting as a safety precaution. Since then, Deneault has been contacted by hunters who would like to see part of the section reopened.

Town Administrator Ed Mello, who updated the council about Denault’s request, was police chief when the collaborative program was founded. Although the number of deer carcasses taken from these lots isn’t known, he believes it is successful.

“It’s a little bit challenging in determining the results because, candidly, they’re not always reporting about the number of deer taken off those properties,” he said. “Regardless, I would suggest that it must be somewhat effective if they have a desire to go back to these locations year after year.”

Mary Meagher, vice president of the council, suggested expanding the state law that requires hunters to be 200 feet from a residence. She successfully lobbied for hunters in the reservoir section to be 200 feet from the property boundaries. Councilman Erik Brine agreed.

“You’re much safer when you’re inside,” he said. “It’s when you’re in your backyard that it’s a problem.”

“You also don’t wear orange in your own backyard,” Meagher added.

Since the program was launched nine years ago, Mello said hunters have done an effective job of staying off people’s yards.

“The hunters, by and large, are pretty diligent about being able to determine where they are to make sure they are not intruding on private properties,” he said.

According to Deneault’s memo, the section that will be reopened is 1,500 feet from the bike path. It will be only open to bow hunting with two hunters permitted at a time. For reference, there were nine hunters who participated in the 2022 program. Six of them indicated support to reopen the modified section at North Pond.