Just when the Eastport Deer Committee thought it was almost done for the year it found itself agreeing to take on more work. With the regular archery season that started on September 28 came some bad actors, usually younger and without the best of hunting skills. With little understanding of the city's ordinance restricting bow hunters, they were leaving behind wounded deer, carcasses and angry and frightened landowners.
The city is known for its deer herds that have thrived because of the lack of natural predators and restrictions on hunting. In order to try to keep the herd size down, the city will be running its second special hunt in December. The concerns around deer hunters acting badly is about the regular archery season that took place from September 28 to October 27, not the special archery hunt that takes place in the latter part of December.
To address the regular hunting season run amok, the Eastport City Council held a special workshop on the evening of November 8, with about 15 residents, law enforcement and deer committee members in attendance. Council President Gilbert Murphy opened by stating that the workshop was requested by some of the councillors and some citizens who had concerns.
Councillor Hailley Bradbury explained that a number of concerns were presented to her by residents. "I'm hoping that there will be solutions," she said of the workshop. "People are finding deer dead in their backyards, they're finding deer walking around with arrows in them," she added. " People are hunting near the schools." She continued with a long list of hunters either willfully ignoring the city's ordinance or in complete ignorance of it.
City Manager Elaine Abbott stated that, as a resident who lives in South End, she has come across deer carcasses a number of times. "We're seeing flagrant violations of the ordinance and state hunting laws," she said. "Residents have said that there has to be an answer."
"I have had 12 hunters," said resident Jana Sutherland. They have knocked on her door, walked across her yard, used her driveway to scope out the deer. "I have explained to each and every one of them that what they were attempting was illegal." She added, "I've had to chase several vehicles." She explained to the council that many of these hunters, all of them young, do not understand the basics of the city's ordinance, which prohibits hunting within 500 yards of a school and 100 yards of a dwelling without permission. She noted that, even if one dwelling owner were to give permission, that permission would generally be meaningless in the city proper because most dwellings are surrounded by other dwellings well within the 100-yard mark. Each neighbor would have to give permission before a large enough zone could be created to allow for a hunt. "I can't go in my own yard and feel safe," she stated.
Deer committee member Dana Turner turned to Sutherland and said, "I'm on the deer committee, and I totally agree." He suggested that a zone in the city proper that extended east from County Road to the water should be out of bounds for firing an arrow. Resident Donna Thayer added, "There shouldn't be any hunting in Eastport at all."
"The solution is for the next regular hunt in 2018 to be restricted," said Murphy. Councillor Scott Emery suggested that the regular hunt should have the same setup as the special hunt held in December that is limited to a set number of hunters, all of whom must register with the city and hunt from a specific and identified location with a blind or tree stand. While Chris Bartlett, who chairs the deer committee, was not sure that the city could restrict a regular hunt in the same way that it could a special hunt, he said, "We can only govern the discharge of a weapon, so having no discharge of a bow except for in certain areas would work."
The deer committee was asked to convene with law enforcement and others over the coming months to come up with recommendations to the council for the 2018 season. The meetings will be posted, and the public is welcome.