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Deer hunting in Massachusetts could be expanded by a proposed bill that would lift the state’s 140-year-old ban on Sunday deer hunting. Boston.com readers believe it’s past time the state allows seven-day hunting during the hunting season.
There is currently an overpopulation of deer in the state, particularly in more densely populated eastern Massachusetts where hunting is more restricted, which is causing degradation of the health of the forest and safety risks and deer cause more vehicular accidents, according to MassWildlife.
Massachusetts and Maine are the only states in the country that still ban Sunday hunting. There are more than 100,000 deer in the state, with densities ranging from 12-18 per square mile to 30-50 per square mile. At a recent hearing, Susan Murray, the executive director of the Southeastern Massachusetts Agricultural Partnership, told lawmakers that the overpopulation was a “silent environmental crisis.”
“Today I’m here to advocate for farmers in Norfolk, Bristol, and Plymouth counties, where deer populations are three to six times above carrying capacity, resulting in over a million dollars in losses for farmers every year,” Murray told the committee.
In a recent survey of 919 Boston.com readers, 77% of readers polled said yes, the state should lift the current ban.
John from Sharon told Boston.com that he believes Sunday deer hunting would help reduce the deer population and create more “open spaces” for farming without the interference of grazing deer.
“Deer populations are too high and you can see the ecological damage in southeastern Massachusetts. In some areas, the low vegetation is completely gone and this includes both native and introduced plants. The only realistic way to reduce the deer population is to make hunting more accessible and encourage responsible herd management,” he said, adding, “As a hunter for over thirty years, I used to support the ban on Sunday hunting. I have changed my view because society has changed and most people do not take time off during the week to hunt, therefore the weekends are the only chance to get out in the woods to hunt.”
But those against expanded deer hunting argue that non-hunters should be allowed at least one day of access to public spaces without fear of gunshots or arrows. Hunting season lasts from October to December and some readers worry they would get no time to safely move through the woods during those months.
Joanne T. from Andover said she’s “totally against hunting seven days a week.”
“I want at least one day a week to walk in my backyard woods and enjoy my property, take my dog and kids for a walk,” she said. “This proposal is insane.”
Hunting injuries are very rare, according to data from MassWildlife. There have been zero hunting-related deaths or injuries of non-hunters in the state, which readers in support of seven-day hunting say is all the more reason to lift the ban.
“Hunting is a great activity to get people out into nature. It is also the only way to have a positive impact on overpopulated deer herds. The idea that you are putting your life at risk by walking in the woods during hunting season is nonsense. Let folks hunt on Sundays just like 48 other states have chosen to do and let’s all put this energy towards something more useful,” said Zack G. from Salem.
Some responses have been lightly edited for clarity.
“I am an avid outdoorsman. I work 50 hours per week Monday through Friday and can only hunt on Saturdays. The deer population is getting out of control because I believe the number of hunters has declined and the deer population is steadily increasing.” — Mike, Millbury
“Many hunters can only go out on weekends. If approved, the Sunday inclusion would double hunting opportunities for many and significantly impact the state’s ability to meet deer management goals.” — Lenny S., Ludlow
“I’ve seen starving deer in past years when the population overwhelmed the North Shore. It was so sad. Deer are part of the natural food chain and while I’m uneasy about the injuries careless hunters can cause, resulting in terrible suffering for the injured animals, culling the herd is necessary. Is it possible to introduce some form of birth control into the herd to help keep the numbers down?” — Anabel G., Lexington
“No hunting on Sundays is outdated. Religion has no place in our government and we ended the blue laws years ago. Accidental hunting shootings are extremely rare. 1,200 die in bicycle accidents every year. Maybe we should ban bikes on Sundays? There’s no logic to it, there is no other precedent for it, and it doesn’t make sense. The fear of being shot is not rational. No one is hunting on the paths that you walk on. Before you vote against it, learn more about it. Talk to a hunter. Go with them. It is safe, it is humane, it is the most natural thing you can do.” — Andrew, Amesbury
“Last year, Massachusetts hunters provided [millions of] servings of venison, a lean, healthy, carbon-neutral source of protein. If these meals were replaced with beef, it would produce nearly 13 million pounds of carbon dioxide and require over 150 million gallons of fresh water to replace with what our landscape produces naturally and sustainably. Opponents consistently devalue the contributions of hunters and anglers in the Commonwealth, and use fear to perpetuate the myth that hunters put the public at risk. The reality is that hunting remains as one of the safest forms of recreation, falling between billiards and bowling in the number of accidents per 100 participants. It should be noted that injuries to non-participants are extraordinarily rare.” — Christopher B., Newbury
“I volunteer as an advocate for veterans in the outdoors. Statistics show that outdoor recreation such as hunting and fishing for veterans who suffer from PTSD has amazing effects for them. Limiting the amount of time those individuals can be in the outdoors for their mental health is counterproductive. They fought for the right to keep and sustain these public lands. The least we can do is let everyone use it to its fullest potential. Those who say they only have “one day” during the week to be outdoors during the hunting season are being dishonest…There is plenty of space for everyone to enjoy the outdoors.
“With the deer populations being too large, of course, hunting on Sundays will help reduce that. Will it immediately fix the problem? We have to try and see. Could there still be other procedures that need to be done to get the population under control? Perhaps. However, I think taking the opportunity away from individuals to put healthy locally sourced meat on their families’ tables is even more egregious.” — Kevin W., North Andover
“Hunting is safe. Non-hunters don’t just get one day a week, they get about 10 months of the year when most hunting seasons are closed. Plus, there are still large areas of the outdoors that are de facto closed to hunting because of setback requirements and/or are parks where hunting is restricted, and non-hunters can go there every day. Unlike extra weekdays, adding Sundays, where far more people will have the opportunity to get out (because they aren’t at work) is far more likely to make a significant increase in the harvest.” — Art C., West Bridgewater
“Hunting and finishing licenses, and the taxes paid by sportsmen, substantially fund the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, yet hunters are prohibited from hunting on one of the two weekend days due to obsolete blue laws.” — Craig, Norfolk County
“Obviously, the needed reduction in deer population will not be even moderately affected by an additional day of hunting. What is required is a systematic, yearlong culling of female deers.” — Al C., Attleboro
“Hiking and fishing with family on Sundays was always an important and needed time for our family to spend quality time together. All families should have the opportunity for one day a week during the fall hunting season to spend time in the woods, forests, and parks together. One extra day is not going to make any difference for hunters or the deer population, which we all know is a fact.” — James C., West Boylston
“I agree with the public having one day a week to enjoy public lands. I think instead of ending hunting in December they should be able to hunt until March. That would help give hunters more time to get deer and help dwindle the population.” — Lisa F., Billerica
“Please, please, PLEASE do not let this happen! Sunday is the only day of relative safety for the rest of us outdoor enthusiasts. Hunters routinely traverse my well-posted no-hunting property, discharging their firearms in close proximity to my children and animals, despite the fact that we’re wearing blaze orange and making eye contact with them. It’s truly terrifying.
“We can’t even ride our horses on our own land on days other than Sundays (and they’ve shot right near them even in their well-marked pastures far onto our property, so it’s just a matter of time before one is “mistaken” for a deer). And forget enjoying the lovely fall days with an off-property hike. Until there’s better control and enforcement of hunting laws, it’s truly cruel to take the mere one out of seven days a week left for the rest of us to enjoy!” — Erin T., Central Massachusetts
“Absolutely not. There is no reason to allow hunting on Sundays when some of us are trying to enjoy the outdoors, not to mention hunting is awful and so wrong. Deer are defenseless.” — N.K.A., Boston
“Public land should be open without hindrance at least one day a week. Hunting is not making a significant impact on the deer population. It is past time to fund birth control for does.” — Kathy J., Weymouth
Boston.com occasionally interacts with readers by conducting informal polls and surveys. These results should be read as an unscientific gauge of readers’ opinion.
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