With deer populations continuing to increase across Suffolk County, including the East End of Long Island, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has announced that it will open a special shotgun season for deer hunting with more areas open to sportsmen.
The DEC expanded the 15-year-old boundries on the South Shore, where hunting was previously restricted, including in areas in East Hampton and Southampton. Hunters, however, still have to refer to local town ordinances.
The season, which allows for deer to be taken with muzzleloaders or shotguns loaded with a single slug, will officially open on Jan. 7 and run through Jan. 31. Hunting will not be permitted on weekends.
"Overpopulations of deer have the ability to negatively impact natural habitats along with agricultural, public and private properties, and public health in the forms of automobile/deer collisions and tick-borne diseases," a DEC statement reads. "Hunting is DEC’s most effective and efficient known tool to maintain wildlife populations at levels that are compatible with communities and natural resources."
In response to an increase in the number of deer, Riverhead has again opened up land at Enterprise Park at Calverton for Riverhead hunters for the third year in a row. On the North Fork, Southold officials expanded the number of acres for sportsmen to hunt on from about 300 to about 450, however the expansion only applies to bowhunting season; special firearms season on town and county land is prohibited in Southold.
In May 2012, Chip Hamilton, a wildlife biologist with the DEC, reported that the DEC does not have exact numbers on deer populations in the Hamptons because it is a "tough number to quantify."
Hamilton said there are more deer on the East End of Long Island because of the available habitat, but more frequently deer are showing up in western Long Island, which indicates that the herds are enlarging.
East Hampton Village, he said, is also embarking on a project to quantify local deer herds using infrared cameras.
He also indicated that the DEC keeps a close eye on the number of deer harvested each season through its tagging and nuisance programs. Tags/permits must be obtained by anyone looking to hunt deer on the East End.
In 2011 — 2012 numbers are not yet available — 546 deer were harvested in East Hampton, 462 in Riverhead, 142 on Shelter Island, 641 in Southampton and 382 in Southold.
To ensure that all shotgun rules are followed, the DEC said it will ramp up patrols at shotgun sites throughout the month. Rules and regulations can be found on the DEC's website here.