By Pat Lefemine
In Southwestern Connecticut, deer densities have created some unique partnerships
between bowhunters and landowners. State organizations like the United
Bowhunters of CT, have successfully implemented urban deer programs - coupling
proficient, trained bowhunters with landowners looking for same. In addition
to statewide programs which deal with lots of towns and bowhunters, smaller
organizations have produced similar, impressive results at a different scale.
Such is the case with an organization called the Greenwich Sportsmen and Landowners
Comprised of 20 local hunters GSLA was formed in 1991 to challenge a movement
to ban all hunting in Greenwich. During the 4 year fight, many animal rights
organizations sent representatives to testify at public hearings. They originally
tried to cite public safety as the reason for a ban. When they could not produce
any solid evidence, they turned to animal welfare arguments. The results were
minor recommendations but no increased restrictions.
Because they are a closed organization that works to obtain access to hunting
land for its members, the GSLA has also stirred some spirited debate by bowhunters.
While some hunters have labeled them "self serving" I tend to look
at them more pragmatic and see an organization that has more insight into the
needs of their community - and the role bowhunting can play. Regardless of where
you stand on the mission of the GSLA, there is no arguing they have been effective.
Specifically at creating partnerships with landowners whom have not always been
our allies. A perfect example is their recent partnership in a deer reduction
effort at the Audubon preserve in Greenwich.
The GSLA was approached by the Audubon Society of Greenwich in the summer of
2003. The group's reputation was well known in Greenwich and by the Executive
Director of Audubon, Tom Baptist. For the Audubon, and its Board of Directors,
taking on this program was certain to draw a fury by the animal rights crowd.
The high profile "controversial" hunt on a sanctuary for wildlife
was going to be widely publicized and protested, but Greenwich Audubon courageously
took the heat and stood behind the decision.
Knowing full well that the program would be highly scrutinized, Audubon published
a 22 page Deer Management
Plan (see deer mgt. plan PDF) for the program which outlined reasons for
the hunt, why alternatives would not work, and details on how the hunt would
be conducted. This helped to remove the emotional argument and replace it with
facts. This plan was a joint effort between the GSLA and Greenwich Audubon.
GSLA had some requirements of their own, including control over the qualifications
and skills of the hunters on the property. If there had been significant wounding
or someone got hurt, those would have been serious issues which would hurt the
GSLA's reputation, but more importantly, Audubon and bowhunting in general.
"We told our members that our reputation was riding on every arrow released.
Only take ethical shots!" said Bob Delaney, President of the GSLA.
Above the requirements from Audubon, the group imposed these additional requirements
on their hunters:
Sign out sheets
Unique Arrow identification
Discreet parking for bowhunters
Map showing all stand locations
weekly reporting of hours hunted by each hunter and what they saw and/or shot
coordination with DEP on collecting data
Assignment of Teams
Assignment of Team hunting areas
Coordination with DEP and Greenwich Police Department
Instant communication system
As anticipated, the hunt was protested by local animal rights groups and received
some national attention. The GSLA purposely delayed the hunting by one week
to reduce/eliminate any clash with protesters. By the end of the program, there
were no altercations between hunters and protesters. The worst that happened
was that two treestands were stolen from Audubon property.
The high-profile nature of this hunt was risky. If there were high wounding
rates, it would be widely known and politicized by anti-hunters - validation
of their 'brutality' claim. To the anti-hunters' dismay, the opposite was the
case. By the end of the program, 30 deer were killed ( more than 1/2 of their
multi-year management goal) and most importantly, 0 deer were wounded.
The success of this program has led to a positive response from Audubon and
may open doors for other organizations in other areas. Sometimes all it takes
is a small group to help break open barriers to greater opportunities for all
bowhunters. One thing is for sure, there is no such thing as an effort too small
- all it takes is dedication, a professional attitude, and a few people willing
to step up and make a difference.
While we focused this article on a successful program of the GSLA, they are
by no means alone. Across the country similar groups and organizations are making
positive impressions with the non-hunting public. Our hats are off to all of
Special thanks to Bob Delaney, President of the GSLA
for providing us with information for this report. Bob can be reached at MRDARCHER@aol.com.
Post-Hunt Press Release
Contact: Tom Baptist -(203) 869-5272
GREENWICH CONCLUDES DEER HUNT
The program to reduce the population of white-tailed deer at the Audubon
Greenwich sanctuary on Riversville Road has been discontinued until
the beginning of the next hunting season, Tom Baptist announced today.
Baptist is the Executive Director for Audubon in Connecticut. “Audubon
is reducing the deer population in order to restore the biological health
of the sanctuary. This year’s effort represents significant progress
toward that goal” Baptist said. “Working with the Greenwich Sportsmen
and Landowner’s Association (GSLA), a total of thirty deer were killed
by bowhunters, and none were wounded and unaccounted for.”
decision to reduce the deer herd on its 285-acre sanctuary from more
than 60 to approximately 5 deer is based on a study that revealed that
deer are negatively impacting the forest ecosystem on Audubon land in
Greenwich. According to the study by Kenichi Shono, a Masters Degree
Candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies,
deer are undermining the value of the sanctuary as a biological reserve
for plants, birds and animals by consuming more than 60 tons of vegetation
hunt began November 3 and concluded January 31. Sixteen men and women
bowhunters spent 347.4 hours during the season, averaging 11.6 hours
of hunting for every deer killed. Of the thirty deer killed, twenty-eight
were does and two were males (one male was antlerless). All meat from
deer harvested on the property, approximately 1,000 pounds, was donated
to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County.
has determined that reducing deer numbers will ensure the overall health
and well being of the deer, and will ensure sustainability of wildflowers,
other herbaceous and shrub species, and a full complement of the native
forest bird community, and healthy population levels of other wildlife.
Currently, deer densities at the sanctuary far exceed the level found
to sustain healthy habitat diversity.
emphasized that successful implementation of the deer management plan
will result in the maintenance of a healthier ecosystem, reduction of
health risks from deer tick-borne diseases, and a decrease in the number
of deer/vehicle accidents in the area. Audubon selected bow hunting
as the preferred hunting method to minimize safety concerns relating
to hunting with rifles and shotguns.
members of the Greenwich Sportsmen and Landowner’s Association (GSLA)
participated in the deer hunt. “Clearly, the marksmen and women exercised
discretion and ethics in taking only shots that were lethal, thus minimizing
the risk of wounding or maiming deer” Baptist said. “Audubon is grateful
for their concern for the ecological health of the sanctuary and for
their contribution of time and energy.” The GSLA emphasizes training
and ethical methods in all of its hunts and requires the 12-hour National
Bowhunter Education Foundation course and marksman proficiency testing
of all its members, as well as a formal application and interview for
membership, before being permitted to hunt on Audubon land.
are confident that an annual program of limited hunting will reduce
the number of resident deer at the Center and ultimately improve the
ecological condition of the forest. A monitoring program will be put
in place to allow us to assess the success of our efforts to restore
this ecologically significant habitat”, Baptist said.
mission of Audubon Connecticut is to further the
protection of birds, other wildlife and their habitats through science,
education, advocacy and conservation, for the benefit of humanity and
the earth’s biological
Post-Hunt Press Release
total of 2,211 pounds of venison was donated to the Food Bank of Lower
Fairfield County by the Greenwich Sportsmen’s and Landowner’s Association
during the 2003/04 bow season. This represents almost 9,000 healthy
meals for those in our area, including over 100 Greenwich families,
who largely depend on local food pantries for their meals. For the
third straight year GSLA was by far the largest donor in Connecticut
to the Hunter’s for the Hungry program.
in 1991 GSLA has become a leader in Connecticut in results oriented
efforts to address the overpopulation of deer. Under the leadership
of President Robert DeLaney, GSLA is working closely with Greenwich
Conservation Director Denise Savageau, DEP Biologist Howard Kilpatrick
and several Greenwich homeowners’ associations to implement programs
to increase the number of deer harvested by resident bowhunters. In
addition, GSLA was chosen to work closely with the National Audubon
Society to conduct a program to reduce the deer herd on its flagship
sanctuary in Greenwich.
Hunter for the Hungry program has become the model for Connecticut towns.
Emulated by other municipalities, the program not only addresses the
regional overpopulation of deer, but also makes a substantial contribution
to the relief of the hungry in our area. GSLA members volunteer countless
hours to manage the program, deliver the deer for processing, label
the venison and deliver it to the Food bank. The funds necessary to
process the venison are raised from donations from local homeowners
and GSLA members.
more information contact Bob DeLaney at 203-629-9374
Audubon Program Fact Sheet
16 members participated
Hours were spent in tree stands
a) 219.3 hours in November (14)
b) 100.6 hours in December (13)
c) 27.5 hours in January (3)
30 deer were taken
28 doe were taken
bucks was taken
were 0 deer wounded
- 990 pounds
of venison was donated to the Lower Fairfield County Food Bank from
the Audubon program
Average 11.58 hours in tree stand to take each deer. This is well
above the average time to take a deer. Reason is because hunters waited
for perfect shot before shooting. This resulted in zero wounding.
- 30 less
deer represents 30 tons of vegetation that will not be browsed.
- At an
average of 1.5 fawns per doe, 28 less doe represents 43 less fawns next
spring, 108 less fawns in the spring of 2005 and 271 less fawns in the
spring of 2006. This totals 422 less deer over the next 3 years.
- The Audubon’s
average yield per deer of venison was 33 pounds. This is well below
the state average of 45 pounds. This indicates the possibility of malnourishment.
- 990 pounds
of venison donated to the local food bank represents 3960 nutritious
meals for those of our area that depend on the food bank for sustenance.
Approximately 100 Greenwich families depend on the food bank for the
majority of their food.