10/10/13 6:00am
10/10/2013 6:00 AM

KATHARINE SCHROEDER FILE PHOTO |  A deer roaming the North Fork.

To the editor:

Last week’s coverage on the town’s population of white-tailed deer was violent, unscientific and barbaric. I love deer. They are beautiful. They were here before people. People cause way more problems than deer do.

The article’s description of killing a deer was very sad. Ticks are carried on mammals, mostly mice, not just deer. We are not going to kill all our mammals. The problem is the ticks, not the deer.

We know that we have to drive carefully. I drive all over the North Fork and the only place with excessive deer is the Bayview area in Southold.

The proposed sniper program will make it so that people cannot walk in and enjoy our preserved lands for several months. And with that many hunters in such a populated area, a person is bound to be shot.

People who do not like deer should move to the city. No deer there.

Heather Cusack, Cutchogue

To read more letters to the editor regarding the deer coverage, pick up a copy of this week’s Suffolk Times.

10/04/13 8:00am
10/04/2013 8:00 AM

JOE PINCIARO PHOTO | A hunter takes aim in Cutchogue Tuesday on the first day of bowhunting season in Suffolk County.

After sitting at the edge of a field in the Cutchogue woods for close to two hours, you look to your right about 10 minutes before sunset — when hunting officially ends for the day — and see a pair of eyes staring at you. Your heart stops for a split second as you realize it’s what you’ve been waiting for since you got there, and he just snuck up on you without you noticing: an eight-point buck.

You freeze. No more breathing, no more moving. Your heart pounds as you lock eyes with the buck and he tries to determine what you are, beyond just a threat to his normal routine. He spends the next five minutes circling you, before snorting loudly to alert other deer in the area. Then he’s gone. You can breathe. You can move again.

That’s an experience, say some North Fork hunters, that today’s youth just aren’t getting anymore. And they hope to do something about it.

The first of October meant a lot of things to a lot of different people this year: the day the federal government failed to meet its debt obligations or the day many Americans could sign up for health coverage. For some, it was the day Major League Baseball’s postseason started.

For Adam West of Cutchogue, it was opening day of the bowhunting season in Suffolk County.

“My wife said, ‘You’re happier than on your birthday when hunting season opens,’ ” said Mr. West, who’s hunted in Idaho six times and Ohio four times, named one of his daughters Hunter and sits on the town’s deer management committee.

She was right.

RELATED: What’s to be done about deer problem?

Mr. West, a carpenter, grew up in Southold and said that over time, he’s seen fewer and fewer young hunters out in the fields and woods of the North Fork during hunting season. Over that time, the deer population has blossomed to the point that current Supervisor Scott Russell has called the need to cull the herd more of a pest management problem than anything else.

A few factors have contributed to a lack of new blood in the hunting population, Mr. West believes.

For one, he said, “We’ve moved further and further away from an agricultural society. We’re disjointed from where our food comes from.”

Also on the larger scale, waiting an hour and a half just to see a deer — never mind completing the task of successfully hunting and tracking it — is something many people don’t seem to have the patience for anymore, he said. And it’s never a guarantee that a hunter will see anything at all when going out.

“A lot of people want instant access to other people, to fun. We’re an instant gratification society,” Mr. West said. “And there’s no real way to do that in hunting.”

RELATED: Southold man died in August from tick-borne illness

Jeff Standish, whose deer stand West used to get his very first deer, agrees. Asked if more hunting education courses — a state Department of Environmental Conservation requirement for all hunters — might help spur interest among youth, Mr. Standish said maybe. The underlying problem for many, he said, is that “they’re at home playing video games.”

Whatever local youth are doing, chances are they aren’t hunting as much. A 2009 study by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which gathered data from New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and 14 other states, reported: “Those hunting in the Northeast are considerably older, on average, than those in the rest of the country. The national hunting base is aging, with fewer young hunters filling the gaps the older hunters are creating when they no longer hunt.”

Mr. Standish, the town’s deputy director of public works, has crafted a town program that has opened more than 525 publicly owned acres to hunters. In an area where space is a limiting factor, says Mr. West — who hunted for several years in Virginia on thousands of acres of open space — finding places to hunt can be another challenge in recruiting new hunters.

Started in 2008 with 50 hunters, originally on 194 acres townwide, Southold’s deer management program has filled to capacity over the past two years, accommodating 100 hunters in 2012 and 2013. The take has risen from five deer the first year to 56 in year two and over 210 in 2012. Additionally, Southold has installed a cooler where hunters can drop off donated meat, which doubles as a DEC station for hunters to pick up extra tags.

Dave Dominy hunted on town land in the Hog’s Neck area on Tuesday and has used the program to get between six and eight deer over each of the past few seasons.

“To their credit, the town has been exceptional,” said Mr. Dominy, a native of the Washington, D.C., area who’s been hunting for close to 25 years. While he says he hunts partly for enjoyment, he also believes many hunters “don’t recognize the role they are playing out here” — and need to step up themselves to help cull the deer herd.

RELATED: Hunting is our best bet to address deer problem

He said there is currently a gap between what hunters could be doing to trim the number of deer on the North Fork and what they are doing.

“There’s an opportunity for hunters to do more than they do.”

JOE PINCIARO PHOTO | Bowhunting season opened up in Suffolk County on Oct. 1. For the second straight year, Southold Town’s deer management program has filled to capacity, with 100 hunters participating.

While it’s in the “very, very green stage,” Mr. Dominy, Mr. West and Mr. Standish all envision a hunting club on the horizon that would reach out and try to get the public involved in the sport.

Mr. Dominy said he has witnessed a sea change in the public perception of hunting and while many people might not necessarily be against hunting, many also aren’t jumping to take it up as a hobby. It can be expensive — a new bow can go for as much as $1,000.

And like most activities, if you’re not exposed to it, chances are you won’t take it up, which he says is why many youngsters aren’t interested in the sport. Mr. West learned to hunt from a family friend, he said. His father was just never into it.

“Maybe dads don’t have the time to take them but, unfortunately, everyone is extremely busy,” said Mr. Dominy, who’s introduced hunting to his own son, though he’s still unsure if he’ll take it up.

“I don’t see any young kids out there doing it, so I think we can make some outreach there,” he said. “Maybe we could find a spot for an indoor range. It’s better than video games.”

Mr. Standish says that younger hunters wouldn’t be the only ones who could benefit from a hunting club (not a gun club, he points out).

“It would also be about educating the hunters themselves,” he said, hosting speakers and courses to educate those in the field. In addition, he would hope to partner local landowners with hunters to further cull the herd.

Mr. West, who’s been hunting for the past 19 years, has noticed a dearth of young hunters in recent years. Like the deer themselves, he said, many seasoned hunters from points west have made their way to the North Fork during hunting season over the past few years. But he’s not seeing dads and kids.

Admitting that often, it might not be as immediately satisfying as a lot of other activities that grab younger kids, Mr. West estimates it’s about “80/20” — 80 percent of the time you’re sitting and relaxing and 20 percent it’s exciting.

“Every once in a while, you’ll see a squirrel run up a tree,” he said. “I know that’s not exactly exciting, but it can be pretty neat. It’s not something you see every day.”

[email protected]

Follow Joseph Pinciaro on Twitter @cjpinch and The Suffolk Times @thesuffolktimes

10/04/13 7:58am

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO |  The deer population on the North Fork continues to grow.

One unarguable takeaway from last week’s deer forum in Peconic is that more needs to be done to cull the herd on the North Fork — and hunting seems to be the most financially feasible way to do it.

The town has improved its deer management program in recent years by increasing the town-owned land open to hunters from 200 acres in 2008 to more than 525 this season. Hunters have reacted by expressing keen interest, filling up all the available program slots over the past two years. Last year’s take was four times the 2009 total.

RELATED: Next generation of sportsmen needed to manage deer population

But until state legislators give town leaders more freedom to regulate hunting on the local level, there is only so much the local program can do, because it’s simply unable to keep pace with the rapidly growing number of deer on the North Fork. An effort to let towns reduce the distance bowhunters must maintain from nearby dwellings from 500 to 150 feet has stalled in the state Assembly, resulting in a dead end for now.

One option Supervisor Scott Russell supports, and we hope Town Board members will back, would be to earmark $25,000 in next year’s budget to support a sharpshooting program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture to target deer in specific areas. While details have yet to be spelled out – including exactly where deer would be targeted or how many can be expected to be taken – Long Island Farm Bureau executive director Joe Gergela said the program would be rolled out over several years, culling the herd in hot spots where they’re known to congregate.

This option would cost far less than implementing a local version of Shelter Island’s 4-poster program — a multi-million dollar solution that fits that town better due to the high density of deer. Contributing its fair share toward the LIFB’s sharpshooting efforts – which would include $200,000 in state grant money and $25,000 from each of the five East End towns plus Brookhaven — would be a wise investment toward managing Southold’s overwhelming deer population.

Next year’s proposed town budget also includes an additional $50,000 the supervisor said could be used to incentivize hunting. More details were not immediately available but it sounds like a fresh idea.

Since it’s unlikely that just $75,000 can be expected to solve the town’s deer problem long-term, another option avid hunters also point out is to interest more young people in hunting. “Less video games” is their common cry and they emphasize that an appreciation for the outdoors is paramount if the end game is to manage the deer herd appropriately.

That’s hard to argue with.

A group now appears to be forming that wants to promote hunting among North Fork youth. That effort would be welcome and we’re interested to see how it evolves.

09/28/13 10:00am
09/28/2013 10:00 AM


In recent times, the former Joan Giger Walker and I have been privileged to spend a significant chunk of time in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park in upstate New York. It’s a land of infinite beauty and seemingly infinite wildlife, including deer, which we occasionally observe in the wild. And then we return to downstate Orient, where we see more deer walking up and down Village Lane and King Street in one night than we see in the Adirondacks in an entire month.

It’s gotten so bad here that we’ve had to install deer fencing around the entire perimeter of our yard to prevent the insatiable beasts from nibbling every single plant and shrub down to the nub. And before we wised up an installed the fencing, the pests ate several thousand dollars worth of plantings.

We are not alone. Everywhere I look in our neighborhood there are signs of damage done by deer.

Southold: Clear out so we can better hunt deer

Just last week at dusk I spotted three deer in our driveway, just outside the perimeter of the deer fencing. I went out on the front porch to chase them away, and they looked back at me like I was the intruder. The buck, in particular, stared me down like Robert DeNiro in “Taxi Driver.” I could have sworn I heard him (the deer, not Robert) say, “You talkin’ to me?” as he casually crossed the street into our neighbor’s yard, where he stopped and stared some more. I briefly considered, but then rejected, the idea of running upstairs to grab my single-shot .410 shotgun — just to fire a warning shot over his antlers, of course — but then opted for tossing a broken tree branch in his direction. I think he may have given me the finger as he crossed behind our neighbor’s house.

This would, of course, be largely laughable if it weren’t for the fact that the exploding deer popular here is much more than a threat to our landscaping. There are literally hundreds of incidents of car versus deer every year, and occasionally the consequences are fatal, as they were five years ago when our friend Bob Wiesehahn was killed after his motorcycle struck a deer late at night on the North Road in Greenport.

And then there is the well-documented role deer play in serving as a vector for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases, which has changed the way all of us who live and visit here approach our outdoor activities during the non-winter months. Best advice: stay out of the woods entirely.

Three years ago in this space I wrote a column suggesting that Southold Town adopt a deer culling program similar to the one that has been so successful on Shelter Island. Three years later no such program is in place here, and the deer problem is worse than ever.

Isn’t it patently obvious what needs to be done? And how much longer must we wait before someone in a position of authority makes the tough call we all know needs to be made?

Yes, indeed, let’s talk about the deer problem (again) Thursday night at the rec center. And then, please, let’s agree (finally) to do something substantive and effective about it. Once and for all.

Disappearance of the dories

So it turns out the traditional clam chowder contest wasn’t the only staple missing from this past weekend’s Greenport Maritime Festival, which by all accounts was one of the biggest (in terms of attendance) and best ever. With little fanfare — and, in fact, absolutely no notice that can be discerned — there were no traditional whaleboat races (or rather, dory races, since the vessels in which the races are contested are actually Grand Banks dories). The races have been a part of the festival for as long as I can remember.

Three factors contributed to this non-event:

1) No teams pre-registered, which has become the norm in recent years;

2) organizer burnout, wherein key volunteers who normally oversee the races, your faithful correspondent included, either failed to turn up or contrived to be out of town; and

3) organic decomposition, wherein the two surviving 25-year-old wooden dories themselves were again at risk of sinking to the bottom of Greenport Harbor.

If there are to be dory races at next year’s festival, several things need to happen:

1) A new generation of volunteers must step up to organize the event (I’m thinking former Southold Town supervisor Josh Horton would be a perfect candidate for this job.)

2) A new group of businesses or benefactors must underwrite the purchase of two new boats; and/or

3) One or more of Greenport’s current crop of skilled wooden boat builders must volunteer to build those boats themselves, or corral a group of young people into building it under their supervision.

What about it, folks? Is anyone out there listening? It’s the maritime heritage of Greenport, calling your name.

08/27/13 5:00pm
08/27/2013 5:00 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Southold Town will host a deer management forum Sept. 26.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Southold Town will host a deer management forum Sept. 26.

Each year the town board hits the road, making stops in each hamlet to foster community discussion on the issues the public feels are the most important. This year one problem in particular has taken center stage: deer.

Deer management has been a long-standing problem within the town, supervisor Scott Russell said during Tuesday’s work session. In response to the outcry the town will host a forum next month to discuss the past and future of deer management on the North Fork.

The meeting will focus on the latest information and developing a multipronged approach to address overpopulation. Participants will include representatives of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Long Island Farm Bureau and Eastern Long Island Hospital.

In addition to impacting the local economy through their impact on agriculture, deer have also had a major impact on health through the role they play in spreading tick borne illness.

“Ticks present a problem in their own right, but deer are an excellent host,” he said prior to the meeting. “They are able to move the ticks and disease throughout the entire community. That’s health crisis particularly for a community of retirees that are vulnerable to those illnesses. Everyone knows someone who has had a tick borne illness or is current battling one. It’s only going to get worse.”

The forum is scheduled for Thursday, September 26 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Southold Town Recreation Center.

[email protected]

02/13/12 2:00pm
02/13/2012 2:00 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Oreanna and Patrick Kaelin wrap fresh venison in their new Cutchogue butcher shop Monday morning.

When Southold Town made culling its deer herd a priority several years ago, one of the biggest problems the town ran across was that there was no one here who could butcher the meat.

Patrick Kaelin, who lives in Cutchogue, heard about the problem from Town Councilman Chris Talbot, who serves with him in the Cutchogue Fire Department. Southold was collecting deer shot during the hunting season in a refrigerated trailer behind the Peconic Lane Recreation Center, but a town employee was driving them to a butcher in Oakdale to be processed and donated to food banks throughout Long Island. Mr. Kaelin knew he could play a part in keeping the venison here.

Mr. Kaelin repairs small engines for a living, but he and his wife Oreanna are avid hunters who have processed their own venison for years in a small trailer behind their home on Route 48. He began researching the DEC and health department requirements for deer processing, got in touch with the Venison Donation Coalition, and began upgrading his equipment to allow him to process meat for the public.

Last fall, he began working with Southold Town to provide venison to residents for a small charge. He’s not allowed to charge for the meat itself, but he does charge between $2 and $3 a pound for the service of processing the meat. Though food pantries usually want the venison ground for chopped meat, he takes requests from individuals for steaks, roasts and stew meat.

Residents who would like some venison can contact Nancy Foote at the Southold Town Department of Public Works, who will pass their contact information on to Mr. Kaelin, who will let them know when a deer comes into his shop. Right now, the bowhunting and shotgun seasons are over, but Southold’s new nuisance permit program is just taking off, and a cadre of USDA sharpshooters have been hired by property owners in Nassau Point to cull the herd there later this month, so he’s anticipating he’ll have venison available for at least another month.

But when springtime comes, he said, even hunters who are allowed to hunt year-round on lands where they have nuisance permits tend to take a break. By then, fawns are being born, he said, and most hunters try to avoid disturbing deer while they’re raising their young.

“They have babies in May. I personally don’t hunt then. I just get sentimental. You can’t kill a mom with her babies,” he said. “There’s a moral aspect to most hunters. The majority of hunters are conscious of that.”

Read more about Mr. Kaelin’s venison operation in Thursday’s issue of The Suffolk Times.

[email protected]

09/29/10 5:33pm
09/29/2010 5:33 PM

Southold’s burgeoning deer population is much more than a nuisance; it’s a health crisis.

Many of the nearly 100 people who packed the house at a forum on deer management sponsored by the town Tuesday night said they’d contracted at least one of a number of deer tick-borne diseases.

Cara Wells just finished a 28-day Doxycycline dosing for Lyme disease and has suffered from numerous tick-borne diseases since the day she moved to Southold in 2002.

“I would happily volunteer for a human Frontline trial,” she said during the gathering at the town recreation center in Peconic. “I’m a tick magnet. They love me. I keep DEET in my car. I spray it on myself constantly. What’s worse, the DEET or the dox?”

Justine Gilvarry said a friend researching the health problem documented people who’d lost their spleens and children whose faces had been paralyzed because of complications from tick-borne diseases.

John Woods of Peconic said he had had Lyme disease twice and recently hit a deer with his car. He estimated that he spends $3,000 per year to protect himself from deer, which are prime hosts for ticks.

“I’m thrown by the fact that they’re no longer afraid of us,” he said of local deer. “It’s getting to be almost an out-of-control problem.”

Wildlife scientist John Rasweiler added that he is concerned that a large deer population could spread far more diseases and parasites than just the omnipresent Lyme disease.

“I look at our deer population and all kinds of flags go up,” he said. “The whole story of West Nile virus … this can very easily happen again and here we have a wildlife population that could serve as a reservoir for this kind of disease.”

He estimated that there are about 10,000 deer in Southold, and last year hunters killed only 462. He added that most deer produce two or three young a year.

“If we don’t humanely cull the herd, nature is going to take its course,” he said. “Sooner or later, they’re going to die off either of disease or hunger.”

Southold Town, which has begun to promote nuisance hunting with special state permits to thin the herd, this year agreed to lease a refrigerator truck for hunters to store venison to be donated as food to Long Island Cares.

Michael Clark, who oversees deer management for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, said he is pushing the state to allow hunting with a bow and arrow closer than the current 500 feet from a house now set as a minimum. He believes that bow and arrow hunting should be permitted within 200 feet of houses, which he said would dramatically increase the amount of land people could hunt with nuisance permits. State Assemblyman Mark Alessi, who attended the forum, said he plans to introduce legislation to decrease the bow hunting restriction to 250 feet.

Mr. Clark added that under the nuisance permit program, homeowners have the ultimate control over who can hunt and when on their land.

He said he was looking for butchers on the East End who were willing to help process venison caught by hunters who donate the meat, because the only venison processors on Long Island are in Oakdale and Farmingville. The state pays $1.50 a pound for their services.

“If you know a person who likes to cut up meat, put them in touch with me,” he said.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he’d received many e-mails and phone calls imploring him to consider using contraception on deer. But New York State, which views venison as a fundamental food source, will not allow contraceptive chemicals in game meat. He also said the town had been dealing with people defacing and destroying hunting area signs since town workers began putting them up this month. He added that he often gets calls from the people who oppose hunting saying they are also opposed to deer fences.

“Folks, it’s getting to a point where we have to make decisions,” he said. “We can’t have open farmland and a robust deer herd.”

Joe Gergela, president of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said deer have dramatically changed farming to the point where expensive deer fences are necessary to ensure that farmers don’t lose their crops.

“We’ve seen deer digging potatoes with their hooves in the Hallockville area,” he said.

The town invited Lee Humberg, who works for the USDA’s Wildlife Services, to the forum to describe the services his agency offers. Mr. Humberg cautioned that the use of USDA hunting teams, who charge between $1,500 and $2,500 for a night’s work, must be done in conjunction with other management programs to be a cost-effective solution.

“The government gives us enough money to keep the lights on. The rest of our budget comes from service fees,” he said, adding that, on a good night in a well-placed location, the USDA’s hunting teams can take out 50 deer.

“If in the town of Southold there are 10,000 deer, I’m not going to solve your problem,” he said.

[email protected]