While state wildlife officials cite suburban bow hunting for a record harvest of 3,765 white tail deer by archers last year in Massachusetts, some area communities are not the embracing the practice.
In Needham, the sight of a hunter in a tree stand near a popular hiking spot last year prompted a vote at Town Meeting in May to ban the discharge of arrows on town land, Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick said. However, hunting is still allowed on private property and a stretch of federal land near the Town Forest and Ridge Hill Reservation.
Despite the new deer management program, hunting is not entirely new in Weston.
Some nine to 19 deer a year are killed legally by hunters on private property around town, according to a Conservation Commission report issued in May. Even on conservation lands traditionally closed to hunting, the town has found signs of illegal hunting. In the Jericho Town Forest, Wolff reported finding an illegal tree stand and an abandoned hunting blind, complete with a chair, when he was setting up his own town-approved ladder stands.
“I have two set up. That way, I can hunt depending on wind direction,” said Wolff, who has a chronic back problem and a special permit from the state to use a trigger-operated crossbow instead of the usual hunting bow, which is harder to draw.
Wolff, who also runs Mass. Deer Service Inc. to connect private property owners with hunters, praised Weston for the thorough manner in which it has implemented the hunting program. He said town officials like Grzenda have been as pragmatic as they have been diplomatic — something Wolff admitted he cannot always be when confronted by hunting opponents.
“My position won’t change no matter what somebody else tells me about hunting and the same is true on the other side,” he said. “Someone once told me probably 10 percent of the population hunts and 10 percent are absolutely against it. It is the 80 percent in between — the on-the-fencers — who with an open mind maybe can be educated about the need for proper herd management.”
Weston’s 26 approved hunters have access to roughly 500 acres spread across the Jericho and Ogilvie town forests, Dickson Fields, Blaney Aquifer, and the Sears Land, with a 500-foot buffer zone keeping hunters away from nearby homes. The five areas remain open to hikers, joggers, bikers, and horseback riding, but signs have been posted warning of the presence of hunters every day except Sundays from Oct. 15 to Dec. 31.
The archers can hunt only from their stands and must carry identification, their town permit, and a map of the approved hunting areas, which they must show to anyone who asks. Kills must be reported to the Conservation Commission within 24 hours or by 5 p.m. the next business day, and all traces of the kill must be carried out or buried.
Westborough Town Manager Jim Malloy said his community will look at Weston’s experience in drawing up its new hunting program.
Jose Martinez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.