Rebuttal to a proposed 5 acre state hunting restriction

Kent Haydock

The proposals by two state legislators who represent Ridgefield so severely limit and encumber bow hunting in the state, they would setback many years of hard-earned progress in protecting our people and property from the very serious conditions that over-abundant deer inflict.

Darien, for example, would have few qualifying parcels of more than four acres available to bow-hunting, while firearms are widely illegal. There is little question then that the proposed 5-acre restriction, plus mandatory permissions from every adjacent neighbor, would effectively shut down one of the most successful volunteer, deer-defense programs in the state.

Indeed, The Darien Deer Management does hear from time to time that families, in deference to an objecting neighbor, refrain from engaging a much needed hunter. However, we find no outcry yet to legislate such common politeness. Meanwhile, several concerned mothers have organized hunting in their neighborhoods.

Further, it is unfortunate to see the proposers relying on emotional hearsay and conjecture, perhaps even from special-interest parties, for justification. It is elementary to marketing that scientific random surveys prove vastly better gauges of true public opinion. Yet the Ridgefield Press article of Jan. 20 ignores major local surveys which demonstrate that families overwhelmingly want serious control of deer herds in their midst. The article even lacks comment from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection which knows the deer situation inside out.

Lest a stray arrow strike someone, Rep. John Frey calls for the “need to do something before tragedy strikes”. While no record of any such occurrence in the entire area is found, Rep. Frey should also know that tragedy has already struck, and often; not only on our roads, but with crippling Lyme disease, and with gravely-threatened regrowth of prized woodlands. The proposed restrictions would create more misery, not less, as authorized hunters remain our first, indeed only, viable line of defense.

Just to consider deer road deaths for example, Ridgefield may be the most dangerous town in the state. Detailed reports compiled by the Department of Environmental Protection over the past five years show Ridgefield with 529 deer reported killed on its roads. By including Sen. Judith Freedman’s five towns the death toll soars to 1,026. Further, Fairfield County towns account for a shocking 22.7% of the state’s 14,017 total roadkills. Mind you, these only include the kills that get reported to authorities.

Uncounted was the errant deer that triggered a road accident in Norwalk in which a passenger was killed. Yet a tragedy of that nature commands scant attention. A slain deer in a Ridgefield driveway, however, creates a media sensation. As a local community leader here has said, “Must a child be killed by a deer crashing through a windshield before we wake up?”

I have great respect for the Hersham weeklies, as their Darien Times, along with the competing Darien News-Review, have done an exemplary job of presenting the facts to the public fairly and often. However, sad to say, the article in this week’s Ridgefield Press by Macklin Reid presents one of the most biased seen in years. While Sen. Freedman does acknowledge that “deer are multiplying so rapidly”, the only significant rebuttals appear near the end with comments from bow hunters and from Tom Belote, chairman of the county’s deer management Alliance.

We see nothing here from the state’s authorities on deer management, or even from established local deer management committees, whose sole mission is protection of their communities. In the interests of personal and environmental safety, the legislators’ emotionally-driven proposals should be tabled. A cooler weighing of the safety issues on both sides of the question will demonstrate that our region needs more deer hunting, not less.

Kent Haydock, Chairman, Darien Deer Management Committee, January 23, 2005