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It’s Only Natural: Deer Hunting in Full Swing in Norfolk

 

By Lindsey Pizzica Rotolo

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Wildlife Division completes an aerial study once every three years to determine the size of the deer population in Connecticut. The most recent study was completed in February of 2007, and determined that the state’s deer population is stable or slightly decreasing, having fully recovered from a sharp decline in the 1990s.

Other studies, including harvest data, deer hunter surveys, deer-vehicle collisions and homeowners’ complaints all reach the same conclusion, that the deer population is stable.

The DEP’s study last winter also determined deer densities throughout the state. Zone Two, which consists of Norfolk, Colebrook, Hartland, Granby, Winchester, Barkhamsted, Goshen, Torrington, New Hartford, Canton, Harwinton and Burlington, has the lowest deer density in the state, with just 3.6 deer per square mile. Zone 11, which covers most of Fairfield County, has the highest density in the state at 29.4 deer per square mile.

Jim Bascetta owns Jim’s Bait & Tackle in North Canaan, a local check-in station for deer hunters. “We were up 25 deer over last year during rifle/shotgun season, which is pretty significant. All the deer brought in here were very healthy, some weighing over two hundred pounds.”

Bascetta believes the low deer density in Litchfield County compared to elsewhere in Connecticut has to do with the greater concentration of predators and hunters here. “Other places in the state just don’t have the wide open land we have here and nobody has a bigger coyote population.”

The Wildlife Division also completed a survey of farmers in northwestern Connecticut last winter to further assess the status of the deer population. Half of the farmers in Zone One, which consists of Salisbury, North Canaan, Canaan, Sharon, Cornwall, Kent, Warren and Litchfield, believe the deer population is increasing. The majority of farmers in these towns agree the current hunting season should be expanded and 85 percent of farmers in Zone One allow hunting on their properties.

Meanwhile, in Zone Two (which includes Norfolk), only 15 percent of farmers believe the deer herd is increasing, 70 percent believe the hunting season is adequate and just 30 percent allow hunting on their land.

An examination of the location of state lands that allow hunting may provide the explanation for the discrepancy between the farmers’ assessment of the deer populations in Zones One and Two. Half of the 44 state-owned areas in Connecticut that allow hunting are located in Zone Two, while Zone One has just 12 state-owned hunting areas.

Norfolk resident Ted Marolda has been hunting the Norfolk and Colebrook woods for over thirty years, and began noticing a change in the deer population about five years ago. “There just aren’t as many deer as there used to be,” Marolda said. “We didn’t necessarily always get a deer during hunting season, but we would see them all the time. Now, we’ll walk through miles of woods and not see a single sign of them. It’s hard to say for sure what caused the drop-off in the population, but predators must be a major factor.”

While some people consider hunting inhumane, it is important to consider the large role hunters play in habitat protection and wildlife conservation. Over 80 percent of the budget of most state wildlife agencies comes from the purchase of hunting licenses, tags, permits and excise taxes, so aside from keeping species from becoming overpopulated, hunters are the biggest financial contributors to the agencies that protect and care for our wildlife.

When asked what draws him into the woods every year, a local hunter said, “For me, it starts with tradition. I’ve been hunting with my dad since I was a kid. That’s our activity together. The best part of hunting is being in nature. It’s a kind of meditation being out in the woods keeping perfectly still, relying on your instincts. Nothing else can compete with that.”

Hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts should be aware that hunting season isn’t just the last two weeks of November. Bow hunting season begins in mid-September and runs through late December. Deer shotgun/rifle season takes place during the last two weeks of November and muzzleloader season is the first two weeks of December, but landowners are free to hunt on private lands from November 1 through the end of December.

 

 

 

Comments
One Response to “It’s Only Natural: Deer Hunting in Full Swing in Norfolk”
  1. Airrow says:

    The last official State estimate was 126,000 in 2006; yet the last State aerial survey showed only 62,189 deer statewide, less than 1/2 of what they claimed in 2006/2007. Connecticut has made a habit of using the 2X factor on their deer population over the last 15 years.

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