Selectmen review Deer Committee feedback
What did the Deer Committee learn from the first season of deer hunting? What policy changes should be made to reflect the extensive feedback on deer hunting? These are some of the questions that were discussed during the June 25 Board of Selectmen (BOS) meeting.
This past year was the first time a select group of hunters was given permits to bow hunt for deer on certain town-owned land in Carlisle, including the Davis Corridor, Town Forest, Greenough Land, Conant Land and Benfield property. The inaugural season ran every day except Sundays from October 1 to November 24, 2018. Hunting has always been allowed on private property with the property owner’s permission and hunting is allowed at Great Meadows, which is federal land off Bedford Road.
The Deer Committee received feedback about inadequate signage, the orientation of some of the tree stands towards trails and the use of trail cameras. In addition, there were two policy violations: in one case entrails had been left behind and in the other, a deer stand was installed on private property.
|A deer hides in the brush. (Photo by Sarah Hart)|
BOS member Nathan Brown said that the BOS must give the Deer Committee clear direction for the upcoming year based on the feedback they have received, as well as guidance and support when meetings get testy, which happened during the last season. Deer Committee Chair Todd Thorsen said, “We really don’t want to go through that this season. As Chair last year, I appreciate giving people their voice but we can’t have meetings with two hours of public comments because the same things were repeated over and over again.” Brown said that it is important for residents to feel like they have been heard and that what they said is being considered. But, he added, it needs to be clear that the committee considered the input and made a decision. Brown suggested having some joint meetings in the future so that it is clear that the decisions have the backing of the BOS as well as the Deer Committee.
There were complaints that the signs notifying trail users about deer hunting were too small and they conflicted with the Conservation Commission signs that state “no hunting,” Brown said, “I think they have a really legitimate point on the signage. Let’s spend a little more money on the signage.”
Brown also said that, based on feedback, it is important to understand where all the deer stands are located. If there are deer stands that are not authorized, some action should be taken to address the issue.
Another complaint was that some deer stands were facing a trail. Brown said, “Make sure they are not facing toward the trail, it is a simple thing to do.”
A Deer Committee member asked, “What authority do we have if a hunter violates the rules?” Brown said that if there is a violation, there is a level of “kick out.” A hunter could be suspended for the rest of the season, for the following year, or forever, based on the severity of the offense. The Deer Committee agreed to work on developing the consequences for different offenses.
It was noted that the Committee expects to have the same hunters again this year. Thorsen said that a lot of the work was done last year to vet the hunters. They were CORI’d and interviewed and the committee has developed a relationship with them. There is a cost involved with bringing on new hunters. It is expected that the second year will be more streamlined and less costly. Brown noted that members of the Conservation Commission spent an unexpected amount of time dealing with deer hunting.
Concern about using the trails during hunting season
BOS Chair Kate Reid pointed out that some people did not feel safe walking on the trails on properties where hunting was permitted. According to Thornsen, one option to assuage the concerns of trail users would to eliminate hunting on Saturdays (in addition to Sundays) but then extend the season by two to four weeks. He added that bow hunting is allowed during the entire hunting season, including when shotgun and muzzle-loader gun hunting are allowed. He noted that last year, there was some confusion in the public about when bow hunting was allowed by the state and said, ‘What the public needs to know, very clearly, is that bow hunting is allowed during the entire season,” including the shotgun and muzzlel-loader seasons. Shotgun hunting is not being and has never been considered by the Deer Committee.
Another suggestion was to not allow hunting between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. because deer are not typically to be out during that time (they tend to be out moving around dusk and dawn). Last year, hunters were permitted from ½ hour prior to sunrise to ½ hour after sunset. It was also noted that a hunter only fires two or three arrows a day.
BOS member Alan Lewis said that one of the complaints was about the use of cameras on the trails. BOS member Barney Arnold asked if the Deer Committee could prescribe that hunters do not direct the cameras toward the trails. Thorsen explained that the state allows the use of cameras and added that a trail camera can be put up by anybody in town, not just hunters. It was suggested that a sign be added above the camera. Thorsen pointed out that the town guidelines could supersede the state guidelines to be more restrictive.
Hunting on Federal land
Members of the deer committee described how hunting on federal land including Great Meadows off of Bedford Road is less regulated that the hunting on town land. Thorsen said that walkers near Foss Farm were threatened by a hunter, “I don’t shoot first and ask questions later but my friend up the trail, he’s not so nice.” One member said that with hunting on Federal land, there is no vetting of hunters but they do require a permit to be displayed on the hunter’s dashboard (which Carlisle does as well). Great Meadows is outside the jurisdiction of the BOS and the Deer Committee.
Culling the deer population
One Deer Committee member said that he heard feedback that not many deer were taken and asked if they should find ways to increase the number to more effectively cull the population. A total of ten deer were harvested on the town land in 2018. The Deer Committee could reach out to owners of large parcels of land to get permission to bow hunt in order to help manage the deer population. Thorsen said that, according to the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, ten deer was actually a high number. Brown suggested getting another year of data before looking at other options.
Keating pointed out that, after one season under their belt, hunters may be more effective in the upcoming season. As an example, he said that one hunter realized that he could have gotten more deer if moved his stand to a different location.
Thorsen said that two committee members resigned after the first year. He also said that he worried about safety after some of the heated exchanges with concerned citizens. Carlisle Police Sergeant Scott Barnes is technically on the committee but did not attend many meetings. Thorsen said it would be useful to have a police presence at some of the meetings.
The BOS unanimously appointed Thod Thorsen, Alex Parra, Jonathon deKock, Dean Bojanic, Jonathan Keating, Sargent Scott Barnes (Police Department) and Barney Arnold (BOS) to the Deer Committee. Their terms will expire in June, 2022.
The new committee was tasked with reviewing its charter and making recommendations to the BOS. Arnold asked how the Deer Committee will communicate the plan for the next pilot and allow for some public comment. She stressed that it is important to give community members the opportunity to give feedback on a new plan. Thorsen noted that every Deer Committee meeting is posted and members of the community can attend and comment. The BOS suggested specifically communicating times for public comment. ∆