Mathews Inc.

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 Association (GSLA).

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
Automobile identification
Unique Arrow identification
Discreet parking for bowhunters
Map showing all stand locations
Stand identification
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 them.

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.

Audubon Post-Hunt Press Release

Press Release   February 3, 2004
Contact:  Tom Baptist -(203) 869-5272

AUDUBON GREENWICH CONCLUDES DEER HUNT

Greenwich.  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.”

Audubon’s 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 each year.

The 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.

Audubon 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.

Baptist 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. 

Sixteen 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.

“We 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.

-END-

The 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

 

GSLA Post-Hunt Press Release

For Immediate Release

Record Food Donation

February 4, 2004
A 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.
 
Founded 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.
GSLA’s 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.
For more information contact Bob DeLaney at 203-629-9374

2003 Audubon Program Fact Sheet

  1. 16 members participated
  2. 347.4 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)
  3. 30 deer were taken
    28 doe were taken
    2 bucks was taken
    There were 0 deer wounded
  4. 990 pounds of venison was donated to the Lower Fairfield County Food   Bank from the Audubon program

Observations

  1. 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.
  2. 30 less deer represents 30 tons of vegetation that will not be browsed. 
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 

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