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05-07-2008, 12:40 AM
2007 Deer Management Report
Hunts net fewer deer, but abundant acorn
by Rachel Kirkpatrick

Periods of warm temperatures and an increase in the acorn crop may have contributed to the decrease in deer harvested by bow and arrow through coordinated deer hunts on town and conservation properties in Redding this past season.

Over all, however, if hunts on private properties are included, the total number of deer harvested remains steady.

The recently released 2007 Deer Management Report summarizes all deer harvested from town-, conservation-, and privately owned properties approved for hunting from Sept. 15, 2007 through Jan. 31 of this year.

Coordinated hunts took place on 12 conservation-owned properties and three town-owned properties.

Some 126 deer were harvested by bow and arrow in Redding, according to the report, down by one deer, overall, from the 2006-07 season.
Compared to last year, hunts on conservation properties netted fewer deer: Approximately 56 this season, compared to 72 last season.

Some 16 deer were harvested on conservation property off Sunset Hill Road and Black Rock Turnpike; this is down significantly from 47 deer harvested on the same property in the 2006-07 season.

A total of 61 deer were harvested on private properties assigned by Deer Warden Don Hain, up from the 19 deer harvested on private properties last year.
Deputy Deer Warden Chas Catania said there were several factors that may have contributed to the net loss in deer harvested this past season, one being the acorn crop.

“What happens is, acorn is a preferred food for deer — highly preferred — and when you’ve got a year of particular abundance, deer key in on that food source and as a result, they don’t have to work too hard to find food, and if they’re not moving too far,” Mr. Catania said. “They tend to cross paths with hunters less.”

There a number of factors that contribute to the acorn season cycles, one being the amount of moisture.

“Personally, last year was the biggest acorn crop I had ever seen,” Mr. Catania said. “It is unusual to have three years in a row with those crops.”

The fairly warm periods during the winter season made for less optimal conditions for hunters, he said.

One of the goals this season was to work with the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) on creating deer tagging stations. There are approximately 11 locations in Fairfield County where replacement tags are available. Harvested deer must be brought to the tagging station, where hunters are supplied with replacement tags. Hunters must tag each deer they kill.

“There are limited numbers of stations around the state,” Mr. Catania said. “We had hoped to get Redding designated as a tagging station.”

That request was met with a “lukewarm” response from the DEP, he said. Locations in the area that provide replacement tags include the Ridgefield deer warden’s office, as well as a location in Easton.

All hunters are required by the state to provide information on number of kills by a postcard. The town also requires hunters to keep in touch with the town on the number of deer they have harvested with a report of where, when and whether it was a buck or doe.

“We keep that so we can get a sense, not only of who (killed a deer), but what areas are productive,” Mr. Catania said.

There is the potential to add one or two more properties for the next hunting season. Mr. Catania said the deer management team has been in touch with the Conservation Commission, which has noted potential new properties the town has acquired in the way of town-controlled property.

“They will discuss them and if they think they will be appropriate, we will look at them and make sure we think it is safe, and that there is ample parking, or if it is going to be too much of an interference,” Mr. Catania said.

This past year, there were 66 archers who participated in the deer management program. Letters were also sent to Redding land owners with 10 acres or more asking them to open up land to hunting. The deer warden’s office can recommend hunters for private property owners.

Each year, Mr. Catania said, the goal of the deer management program is to get the deer population down to a realistic number and to continue to make an impact on the total population.

“The overall goal is to bring the number of deer per square mile to a level the habitat can support,” he said. “We’ve got two to four times the number of deer the habitat can support, and they’re eating things they don’t normally eat.”

On top of the increased instances of tick-borne Lyme disease and car collisions involving deer, deer are also impacting the understory of area forests.

“A lot of people who don’t spend much time in the woods don’t see that most of the green stuff there is not what deer eat,” he said. “Years ago there were a lot of young trees in the woods — now you can’t find a seedling anywhere.”

A continuing goal for next year is to work toward allowing hunting on Sundays. Hunting has not been allowed on Sundays for years by state statute, Mr. Catania said.

“Years ago there were a lot of things prohibited on Sundays. Right now liquor sales and hunting are the only things left over,” he said.

Another goal is to continue encouraging the donation of deer by archers. This past season, 74 deer were donated to either the West Redding Firehouse for its annual game dinner fund-raiser, or to needy families in Connecticut through area food banks.

“We want to encourage people to support the effort in whatever way they can,” Mr. Catania said. “If they have appropriate property, call the deer warden; if they want to support it financially, we have been donating a lot of venison to a couple of charities.”

The First Church of Christ, Congregational in Redding has purchased freezers to store venison to donate to area food banks. There are processing charges hunters have to pay, that people are contributing money for now, Mr. Catania said. The town controller’s office currently holds and disburses funds for processing charges if people want to make contributions.

“We just want to thank the residents for support and participation,” Mr. Catania said.