Hunters in the area will have to wait a bit longer than usual to begin hunting that trophy buck once the bowhunting season commences in October.
As part of an effort to curb deer overpopulation, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced new rules Thursday — which are somewhat controversial among some local hunters — allowing only antlerless deer to be hunted during the first 15 days of the season in certain regions.
The effort will be the first time the state environmental regulatory agency — originally formed in 1895 as the Fisheries, Game and Forest Commission — has curbed buck hunting in Suffolk County. Making hunters aim for anterless deer only has been temporarily attempted in the state’s Northern Zone in the past, “until they accomplished their purpose” a state spokeswoman said.
“Responsible management requires periodic adjustment of hunting rules to ensure that deer populations are compatible with local socioeconomic interests as well as maintaining a balanced ecosystem,” said DEC Acting Commissioner Marc Gerstman in a Thursday press release.
However, some North Fork hunters doubt whether those regulations will be effective at addressing a serious local problem.
“It’s not going to change the hunters,” said Tom Gabrielsen, chair of Riverhead’s wildlife management committee. “Most of them are all after the bucks. They’re not even going to hunt until the [DEC-imposed] two-week period is over.”
Since most hunters only go out a handful of times, Mr. Gabrielsen said, most would wait until they could hunt bucks — which are far more appealing since they are trophy animals.
Mr. Gabrielsen plans to bring up such a concern when his group meets with the DEC in September. Although he has doubts about the 15-day period specifically, he agreed that the “epidemic” of deer overpopulation does need to be solved in one way or another.
“You’re going to save lives, you’re going to save injuries, you’re going to save damage to cars,” he said.
He suggested the DEC pursue other policies, such as granting more than one doe tag per hunt, establishing a crossbow-specific hunting season to increase interest and granting one buck tag for every two does killed.
The DEC’s new regulations apply to specific portions of the state, including Suffolk County, where excessive deer populations are causing a slew of negative effects, from environmental damage to car accidents to tick-borne illnesses.
On the North Fork, such problems are well-documented: large deer herds have “decimated our woodlands,” in the words of one local environmentalist, and Southold Town has its own committee to address deer ticks and the diseases they spread.
Last year, the Long Island Farm Bureau conducted a deer cull on the East End that was both controversial and virtually ineffective: with $200,000 in state funding and $25,000 of funding from Southold Town, sharpshooters killed fewer than 200 deer. An LIFB executive said the cull “didn’t work,” returning half of Southold’s $25,000 contribution back to the town.