Push for Hunting Pause

Group for Wildlife wants one weekend day gun-free

Members of the East Hampton Group for Wildlife renewed their call to ban hunting one day each weekend when the East Hampton Town Board met last Thursday. 

In February, asserting that residents are unsafe in the woods during hunting season, the group first asked the board to institute such a ban. Last month its president, Bill Crain, complained to the board that the request had been ignored, and that the town’s wildlife management advisory committee, to which it brought the proposal in December, is biased in favor of hunting.

Terry O’Riordan, an official of the East Hampton Sportsmen’s Alliance, responded, telling the town board last month that hunters have always shared land, and that weekends present most of them with their sole opportunity for time off. Deer hunting with firearms was permitted from Jan. 6 to Jan. 31 this year. Just seven of those days, Mr. O’Riordan noted, fell on weekends.

Hunting rules and regulations are set by the state and enforced by state conservation officers, as well as by federal Fish and Wildlife agents where migratory birds are concerned, according to the town’s hunting guide for the 2018-19 season. While local municipalities cannot pass laws regulating hunting seasons, they can decide whether to permit hunting within their jurisdiction. Private landowners may also permit hunting on their properties.

A longtime state ban on weekend hunting was lifted five years ago. While the Group for Wildlife considers hunting inhumane, others are upset by the noise of firearms, also saying that hunters pose a danger to hikers on woodland paths. Carol Saxe Buda, a member of the wildlife management committee, told the town board last Thursday that hers was the lone dissenting voice when the committee voted, at its April 17 meeting, to oppose the Group for Wildlife’s proposal for a one-weekend-day ban. Just four people, three of them hunters, voted on the proposal, she said. 

“I take issue with the way the proposal was handled and would take serious issue if the board used the committee’s recommendation as the basis for your decision,” she said. “All of us should have recused ourselves for personal interest. There are many more people on that committee than show up for meetings, so we should all be clear about the lack of representation behind the resolution.” 

She complained that Councilman David Lys, the board’s liaison to the wildlife committee, was “stalling” in taking the Group for Wildlife’s proposal to the board for a work session discussion. “The proposal was brought up in two more wildlife committee meetings until Councilman Lys got the resolution against the proposal, which he appears to support, which would then be brought to the board and used to either reject it or not even discuss it at a work session,” she said. 

Yuka Silvera, a member of the wildlife group, delivered a letter bearing 168 signatures asking the board to ban hunting on one weekend day, along with a letter from Dell Cullum, a wildlife removal specialist, photographer, and town trustee, asking for the same action. “It is very upsetting to be awoken by gunshots during the hunting season,” Ms. Silvera told the board. Families may bond through hunting, she said, “but the rest of us could use family bonding time in the woods or beach also.” 

While many people she has spoken with believe hunting is necessary “for the right reasons,” she said that almost all “agreed that the majority of the taxpayers in our community need one day of peace without the sounds of gunshots, and agreed that this proposal is fair, reasonable, and can work for all.” 

Angela Witte told the board that many of her relatives are hunters, “but I think there has to be a balance in sharing the lands.” 

Kathy Marino agreed that hunting is a way of life for many, “but it affects the ways of life for many people. It gives an aura to an area.” Americans face unprecedented anxiety today, she said. “We, as a part of humanity, if we can contribute to peace and harmony and make people feel safe just one day per week . . . I have to question why you would vote against that.” 

Responding to remarks by another resident, Laurie Marsden, Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc suggested that the public would be better informed if the town’s website included information about town-owned lands on which hunting is and is not permitted, and the dates and times in which particular game can be hunted. 

“We would like a solution to more shared access,” Ms. Saxe Buda said, “but we need a partner.” Would the board consider the topic at a work session, “so the public can be involved and hear what you have to say?” 

Mr. Lys said he would like to deliver his report from the wildlife management committee’s meeting to the board before that discussion happens, but Councilman Jeff Bragman, Councilwoman Sylvia Overby, and Mr. Van Scoyoc expressed a willingness to hold a public discussion. 

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for next Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Town Hall.