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Southold Town seeks year-round hunting access on certain properties

Southold Town is in the final phase of applying for a nuisance permit to allow hunting year-round on certain town-owned lands.

Jeff Standish, the town’s deputy director of public works who is coordinating the program, said Monday that 30 bow hunters have already asked to be included on the permit, which would be issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

“The DEC has opened up the door and is allowing us to venture out into different types of programs,” said Mr. Standish, who has organized a deer management assistance program (DMAP) on town lands for bow hunters between Oct. 1 and Jan. 1 for the last three years.

Southold has taken an aggressive stand in promoting bow hunting in recent years, after an outpouring of complaints from citizens who’ve suffered from Lyme disease, farmers whose crops are being destroyed by deer and homeowners whose landscaping has become nothing more than deer snacks.

The town may send the nuisance permit application to the DEC within weeks, but the program probably will not start until the fall, after many people stop hiking on wild properties throughout town.

Even then, the hunters will likely be allowed only limited access, which will be outlined in advance by the town’s land preservation committee.

That committee oversaw the use of lands for the DMAP program, allowing hiking on designated properties on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays and reserving the properties for hunters on the remaining four days.

“It will probably not be easy to implement the nuisance permits for this season. We are looking at this as a more long range solution,” said Town Supervisor Scott Russell on Tuesday. “The reality is that we have few options in reducing the deer infestation and this new permit will allow us to expand our efforts.”

Mr. Standish said the town has checked the backgrounds of the hunters to be named on the town’s permit to ensure their knowledge of regulations and commitment to safety.

“We don’t just let anybody go in the woods,” he said. “These are the guys that we feel will really do the right thing.”

The town also plans to advocate for a change in state regulations that prohibit hunting within 500 feet of a house without the homeowner’s permission, in part because many areas of town that have been overrun with deer, including Nassau Point and the Bayview section of Southold, are too developed to allow hunting.

Mr. Standish said he and Supervisor Russell plan to meet with Assemblyman Dan Losquadro and draft proposed changes in the law to reduce the prohibited distance for bow hunters, whose arrows only travel between 20 and 30 feet.

The town also intends to buy a refrigerated truck or trailer, to be kept behind the recreation center on Peconic Lane, where hunters can bring deer, which will then be donated to food pantries. The town leased a refrigerated truck during last fall’s DMAP program and it was well used, officials said.

“There are a lot of people starving out there who need the food,” said Mr. Standish. “There’s nothing growing anymore. The deer have wiped out the underbrush in the woods. It’s not like it used to be. If you’re feeding somebody, it’s a whole different look at it.”

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