The Hunt for Balance

By Brent Miller, Northeastern States Director, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation

In the sportsmen’s community it has been known for some time that one of the most important factors in recruiting, retaining, and reactivating hunters is ensuring adequate access to lands for them to engage in their pursuits. Often we focus on providing access to large tracts of lands (whether public or private). However, there are many other policy changes that can result in improved access, such as the expansion of Sunday hunting (temporal access issues), the effects of local ordinances (ending localized hunting closures), or the reduction of discharge distance regulations.

I recently had the opportunity to explore the issue of discharge distances by examining deer management concerns in the Hudson Valley of New York, where I grew up. In this paper I compare and contrast the various alternative management techniques that individuals posit may replace the role of hunting in controlling localized overabundant deer populations. Coming to the conclusion that hunting remains the most effective and efficient method for dealing with localized issues with deer overabundance in free-ranging populations, the paper then examines a recent policy change in New York (pushed forward by members of the New York Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus) that will likely result in improved access for hunters in the Empire State. Finally, the paper looks towards the future, and examines which additional policy changes might be necessary to ensure the recent change reaches its full potential and expands the ability of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to rely on hunting as a primary management tool for dealing with localized overabundant deer populations, particularly in suburban and exurban environments. 


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