Paul J. Fusco, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection

Bowhunting deer on private property on Sundays would be permitted under a bill supported by Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner Robert Klee as a deer population control measure.

The bill aims to help manage Connecticut’s overabundant white-tailed deer population by allowing property owners to hunt deer on Sundays with bows. In written testimony, Klee said his department would prefer the bill be modified to limit the Sunday hunting to “deer management zones,” where deer have overpopulated and become destructive.

There were about 120,000 deer in the state when the department last did an estimate about five years ago, DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain said. Since then the agency has been focused on regions of the state like Fairfield County, where the animals have become most problematic, he said.

“In areas with high densities, deer are causing extensive damage to ecosystems and property and elevating public health and safety risks through tick-borne illnesses and vehicle collisions. The addition of Sundays during the private land archery deer seasons would significantly increase deer harvest by increasing hunter opportunity,” Klee’s testimony read.

The department has taken a number of steps since 2000 to reduce the number of deer in the state, including increasing the number of deer that hunters are permitted to kill and adding a crossbow hunting season in January.

According to the department, Sunday hunting is an animal population control policy used in 42 states and is “one of the last remaining progressive measures designed to meet management objectives.”

“In general, DEEP believes that all individual private landowners should have the right to determine if bow-and-arrow hunting is allowed on their property on Sundays. However, DEEP would support changes to this proposal that would limit bow and arrow hunting on private lands on Sundays to only those deer management zones that have been determined to be overpopulated by deer,” the testimony read.

The bill to legalize Sunday bowhunting drew more than 700 pieces of written testimony from members of the public. Most of them were messages of support from hunters who see the current ban on Sunday hunting as an outdated law barring many people from their hobby on a day most people have off from work.

“Connecticut’s Sunday hunting ban is simply an antiquated blue law that needs to be repealed. Eighty-five percent of states in this country allow Sunday hunting, including our neighbors in N.Y. and R.I. Fishing is legal on Sundays, trapping is legal on Sundays, anyone can now buy alcohol on Sundays, so why not be able to take my child out in the woods the one day I do not have to work if I so choose to legally do so,” Paul Natoli of New Milford wrote.

Others disagreed. Peter Hood of Fairfield said no town in Fairfield County has managed to effectively reduce its deer population by encouraging hunting.

“Hunters already have six out of seven days to hunt. They represent a tiny minority of the state’s residents. This change is often justified on the basis of economic issues, but hunters are overwhelmingly outspent by residents pursuing other forms of passive or active recreation, that don’t involve killing animals,” he wrote.

Some, like Wendy Horowitz of New Haven, expressed public safety concerns.

“Connecticut residents and their children should be able to go for a walk on Sundays without worrying about being shot,” she wrote. “Please let us go for a hike without putting our lives in jeopardy.”

However, the Energy and Environmental Protection Department’s testimony said decades of research suggest bow hunting is a safe tool for managing deer populations.

“Hunting in general is a safe outdoor activity and bow hunting is extremely safe, especially for other outdoor users. Not a single non-hunter has been injured by a bow hunter since passage of the Deer Management Act in 1974,” the testimony read.