A bill authorizing Sunday hunting of deer with a bow and arrow on private property passed the Senate Wednesday and is headed to the governor’s desk.
Connecticut is currently one of 11 states that doesn’t allow Sunday hunting.
The bill the Senate passed on a 28-8 vote Wednesday allows bow and arrow hunting in 11 of the state’s 13 deer management zones. The 11 zones drawn by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection include 134 of Connecticut’s 169 towns.
The bill also mandates that hunters acquire formal permission from property owners and that all hunting must be done 40 feet away from any marked hiking trail.
According to DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen, the state’s deer population remains unmanageable, with a current population estimated at 120,000 deer with 7,000 deer-vehicle accidents per year in the state.
Supporters of the bill say they hope that legalized Sunday hunting will reduce this population, as well as the related vehicular accidents, Lyme disease contractions, ecological damage, and other negative effects of the overabundance of deer.
“The DEEP believes that there’s an overpopulation of deer,” Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said. “This is a mechanism they need to control the deer population. The optimum number is 20 deer per square mile — in some places there are estimates of 80 deer per square mile.”
A 2010 report commissioned by the Fairfield County Municipal Deer Management Alliance, the Connecticut Coalition to End Lyme Disease, and the Connecticut Audubon Society illustrates the economic consequences of such overpopulation — according to the report, overabundance costs Fairfield County towns over $170 million annually in Lyme disease-related health care costs, car repairs, and landscaping.
Aside from side-stepping the negative effects of overpopulation, the prerogative of Senators siding with the bill seemed to be focused on families who depend on Sunday hunting for food.
“In my area of the state, where many people hunt for the food they put on the kitchen table, this would provide an important mechanism for people to feed their families,” Osten said. “We consider it a very important piece and mechanism for what people do on their own private property.”
In a statement of support, Sen. Steve Cassano, D-Manchester, agreed with Osten’s sentiment.
“I can’t express the amount of times that people have expressed they work six days a week and that hunting on Sundays is important,” said Cassano.
Individuals and organizations who have lobbied against the bill over the years include the Connecticut Humane Society and various other animal rights activists, many of whom believe that bow and arrow hunting is inhumane to humans and animals alike.
“Bow hunting in particular is an especially cruel method of hunting along with trapping, which is a passive, ghastly way to maim and kill animals,” Jane and Anthony Ciarlone of Branford said in written testimony against the bill. “Enough is enough. Those of us who do not choose to hurt other species deserve our one-day of peace and safety from those carrying weapons.”
Though it may seem outdated, bow and arrow hunting accounted for roughly half of the 11,400 deer yielded by hunters in 2014, DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee said in written testimony.
The bill passed the House on a 113-32 vote last week. If the governor signs the bill, it will go into effect Oct. 1, 2015. Bowhunting season on private lands begins Sept. 15 and ends Dec. 31.