Property owners in areas of the state overpopulated by deer would be permitted to hunt the animals with bows on Sundays under legislation approved by the House Thursday night.
The bill cleared the chamber on a 111-30 vote after a short debate around 11 p.m.
Sunday bowhunting drew strong support from Republicans in the House, who succeeded in passing a similar bill last year. That bill was never acted upon by the Senate.
This year’s legislation is more restrictive. It only allows the Sunday hunting in “deer management zones” approved by the state Energy and Environmental Protection Department. The agency backed the legislation as a deer population control measure.
“This is actually more focused on deer overpopulation,” Rep. John Shaban, the Environment Committee’s ranking Republican, said. “It’s a good wildlife bill. It’s a good land management bill. It’s a good public safety bill, because overpopulation of deer leads to death and sickness with lyme disease, car strikes.”
Rep. Diana Urban, D-North Stonington, opposed the bill as she has during past years. She said her opposition stems from her work with children riding horses in the woods.
“I would like them not to have to think about on a Sunday possibly seeing a wounded deer or something along those lines,” she said. Although the bill only applies to certain private property, Urban said children often do not recognize property boundaries.
In written testimony earlier this year, DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee said his department has taken a number of steps since 2000 to reduce the number of deer in the state and considers Sunday bowhunting “one of the last remaining progressive measures designed to meet management objectives.”
There were about 120,000 deer in the state when the department last did an estimate about five years ago, according to DEEP spokesman Dennis Schain. 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 order to reach the governor’s desk the legislation will need to be approved by the Senate before the session ends on May 7. Last year, Senate Democrats declined to raise the bill, which sparked a dispute with House Republicans in the final hours of the session.