Time of the year to pack your bags with partridge, quail, fox, deer …
BURRILLVILLE, R.I. — It was a cold fall morning of brilliant foliage and bright sunshine on the 1,000-acre preserve of privately owned Addieville East Farm. Scott Goodwin had a .28-gauge shotgun draped over his arm and Holly, his English pointer, was bounding through windswept fields of tall Blackwell switchgrass, the bell around her neck clanging madly
Holly suddenly stopped and went into classic pointer pose. Tripper, a 9-year-old yellow Lab belonging to Jack O’Brien, Addieville’s general manager, snuffled into the brush and Goodwin took aim, bagging the flushed bird with one shot. Tripper retrieved it.
As the morning progressed at the property, which is open to club members and the public, O’Brien and Goodwin took turns hunting, running their various dogs, including their pointers and some of Goodwin’s Brittanys, a breed of hunting spaniel. They took more than a dozen partridge, never missing a shot. But that’s not the important thing about hunting in Rhode Island, O’Brien said.
“It’s just great being out in the woods on a day like today,’’ he said, standing by a pond that reflected the colors of the trees. “It’s a little slice of heaven.’’
It is a scene repeated all over the Ocean State this time of year, from the eastern coast to the western hills right through to spring, as thousands of hunters take to woods and swampland in search of all manner of waterfowl, brush birds, and bigger game such as deer. It is a sport engaged in also by hunters from neighboring Massachusetts and Connecticut, and from as far away as Maine, said Larry Mourajian, associate director of natural resources for the Rhode Is land Department of Environmental Management.
“For hunters from neighboring states, they can take advantage of programs in our state and theirs,’’ he said. “We have a good constituency of hunters here and from out of state.’’
Hunters in the state contribute to conservation and land management. According to the DEM, all money generated from hunting, including license fees, deer tags, duck stamps, and turkey permits, goes into an account to benefit hunters. Money is used to match federal funding for management areas, including for purchasing land, cutting brush and trees, planting crops for animals, making areas accessible for hunting, habitat restoration, deer surveys, and providing services to hunters.
The 2009 season generated nearly $500,000 in fees and permits, according to the department. For every dollar spent on hunting licenses and fees, the federal government gives the state $3, said Dennis Etchells Jr., president of the Federated Rhode Island Sportsmen’s Clubs, a group representing 33 outdoor recreational clubs in the state, including hunting, fishing, and gun clubs, with more than 7,300 members.
According to Etchells, sportsmen pumped $191 million into the state economy last year, up from $165 million in 2006.
“There are a lot of hunting opportunities in Rhode Island,’’ Etchells said. “There is a little more than 48,000 acres of public management area in the state.’’
The largest, at some 14,000 mostly forested acres, is the Arcadia Management Area, a sprawling expanse of land in southwestern Rhode Island that includes land in the towns of Richmond, Exeter, Hopkinton, and West Greenwich. A newer, smaller tract is the Tillinghast Pond Management Area in West Greenwich, with about 1,110 acres for hunting, Mourajian said. The state partnered with the town and the Nature Conservancy of Rhode Island to create hunting opportunities on the land three years ago.
Other popular hunting areas include the Simmons Mill Pond Management Area in Little Compton, about 400 acres of oaks, red maples, and American beech, restricted to archery hunting; Eight Rod Farm Management Area in Tiverton, a 418-acre former dairy farm; and Snake Den State Park in Johnston, 1,000 undeveloped acres where archery deer hunting is allowed within posted boundaries.
The biggest game taken in Rhode Island is deer. In a small state with pockets of suburban population, deer have become a nuisance issue, Mourajian said. The state has opened up more areas to hunt them, he said.
“We’ve opened up the Scituate Reservoir property that was always closed, working with conservation groups and the towns there to manage the deer population,’’ he said. “Hunters are a free resource for us, they hunt deer and it significantly reduces the population and auto strikes, and cuts down on public-health issues in the towns, such as deer tick illnesses.’’
The state instituted a zone-management system this year, upping the bag limits in areas where deer are heavily congested, he said. In certain areas, using all methods of hunting — shotgun, bow, and muzzle loader — a hunter can take up to 18 deer a season. Depending on hunting method and location on state or private land, deer season runs through the end of January.
“And our deer are weighing in big,’’ Mourajian said. “A 200-pound buck is not uncommon these days; guys can put a lot of meat in the freezer. We have them coming down from Maine to hunt here.’’
What may surprise some, he said, is the diversity of game-taking options. Small game includes such animals as squirrel, fox, pheasant, quail, rabbit, and raccoon. Migratory game animals include dove, snipe, woodcock, Canada goose, and sea duck. Coyotes are fair game here, as is wild turkey. (For a complete list of hunted animals and regulations, visit www.dem.ri.gov.)
As to the appeal of hunting in a small state, Etchells said, “It’s a step away from reality. I’m a dispatcher at a local police department, I do that 40 hours a week and then with being president of the federated, add another 60 hours a week. So once I step out of my truck to hunt, the phone goes off, the bell goes on the dog, and it’s don’t-bother-me time.’’
And it’s time not just confined to the fields or woods, he said.
“It’s good times around the hunting club at night, with guys who enjoy the same thing,’’ he said. “It’s not talking about politics or the economy, it’s talking about what you saw in the field that day.’’
Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at email@example.com.