An arrow shot by a compound bow can travel up to 300 feet a second. That’s twice the nominal required distance bow hunters must be from a home, according to a local ordinance backed by state law that’s got some Shrewsbury residents concerned about deer hunting being so close to neighborhoods.
On Sycamore Avenue Sunday, about a dozen people, some of them local homeowners, others activists who have expressed their concerns at similar rallies throughout the state, protested against the decision, and the reasons, to permit bow hunting just 150 feet away from where they say children walk every day.
An ordinance approved by borough council in June allows bow hunters to hunt from a distance of 150 feet away from homes on private property if it’s their property or if they have permission from the homeowner to do so. The reason for the change in ordinance – state law previously required bow hunters to be at least 450 feet from homes – is a because of several issues, detailed for the council in a more than 100-page report, including deer overpopulation, the destruction of private property, and the potential spread of Lyme’s disease carried by ticks.
But, those involved with the fight to push bow hunting away from homes say that some of the reasons touted by the council are the result of old hunting-industry campaigns that not only lack evidence but, in some cases, have been completely contradicted by actual scientific research.
“I’ve done a lot of perusing of the town ordinance and all you need to do to come into town and shoot an animal is find out where the hunting area’s are or approach someone and ask if you can hunt on their property, ask if you can pay to hunt on their property,” Dede Lichtig, a Sycamore Avenue homeowner who provided her driveway as the protest’s gathering point, said. “There are no restrictions to hunt except having a hunting license.”
In addition to the report, which was organized by Shrewsbury’s Police Department, the council also relied on the results of a survey mailed to the borough’s residents. More than 70 percent of those who responded said they thought the deer population in town should be trimmed.
Although more than 3,500 people live in the borough, less than 250 residents responded to the survey.
“They’re pushing this ordinance based on that number (of respondents) when it’s not necessarily what the people want,” Lichtig said. “When I got that survey in the mail I said, “Who’s going to hunt by my house?” not thinking that my neighbor could be right in the woods next door hunting.”
Lichtig said she’s able to see at least one deer stand from her mailbox and that she witnessed a hunter in camouflage walking through the woods while children were trick or treating during Halloween.
Handing out fliers and information fact sheets across the street, Susan Russell, identified as a wildlife policy specialist with the League of Humane Voters of New Jersey, said many of the council’s concerns just aren’t legitimate. In regards to Lyme’s disease, Russell said deer, though they carry ticks, don’t actually spread the disease. Pointing to an article quoting an insurance agent with State Farm discussing a rise in claims during the fall, Russell said many accidents involving deer take place during the hunting season. It’s not because deer are looking to breed, it’s because hunters are driving them from wooded locations.
And, the idea that there are too many deer is one Russell has issue with, too.
“If you see too many deer, it’s not an indication that they’re over abundant,” she said. “It’s an indication that they’re losing their habitat.”
What’s really going on in regards to allowing bow hunting so close to residential neighborhoods, Russell feels, is lobbying from hunting organizations in Trenton to preserve the activity by “inflicting that shrinking subculture on other people.” Shrewsbury’s not the first town to support similar legislation, and it’s not going to be the last, she said, as long as misinformation about the need to manage the deer population continues to spread.
“This way, hunters can roll out of bed, put on their cami’s, and go sit in their neighbor’s tree,” she said. “They’ve made it that simple.”