According to New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Cuomo has included language in his proposed 2014 state budget that would reduce the setback from 500 feet to 150 for hunting deer with a bow and arrow.
The move would greatly increase the areas available for deer hunting on the East End.
Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation called for such a plan while addressing the Riverhead Town board in March.
In fact, the setback was recommended by the DEC in its state deer management plan; the change is also consistent with the setbacks for bow and arrow hunting in most adjoining states.
Thiele said, at the request of local government officials on the East End, that he had introduced an identical proposal in 2013.
"Deer management has been a major issue on eastern Long Island, where deer populations have skyrocketed, creating ecological, health, and safety issues. The DEC, in its State management plan, has made recommendations to reduce the herd by increased hunting opportunities, but these measures have not been adopted by the state legislature," Thiele said. "As a result, farmers and local governments have been forced to look at more drastic management measures. The setback reduction, if enacted as part of the state budget, will provide a major tool that will permit the hunting community to play a greater role in reducing the deer herd. There are other management tools that still need to be implemented, both lethal and non-lethal, but the enactment of this proposal would be a good first step in reducing the number of deer on eastern Long Island."
Meanwhile, local animal advocates for deer have been protesting a planned deer cull on the East End that's set to kick off by late February or early March.
The East Hampton Group for Wildlife strongly opposes the proposed bill, according to the group's founder Bill Crain. "Bow hunting is the cruelest form of hunting. Studies have shown that in a large number of cases — 20 to 50 percent — arrows wound the deer and leave them to suffer long and painful deaths in the woods."
He added that while Thiele maintains that the eastern Long Island deer population has "skyrocketed," in East Hampton, "the 2006 and 2013 scientific surveys indicate that the deer population is on the decline. So there's no need to reduce the herd, as the bill proposes."
Crain said he hoped other towns on the East End would do an actual survey of their deer populations to see if the had been on the rise or declining. "The East Hampton Group for Wildlife has fought expansion of hunting since our beginning, in 2004. We believe an enlightened society can find humane ways of living in harmony with the wildlife," he said.
Mike Tessitore of Hunters For Deer said he was thankful that Cuomo had taken steps to initiate an archery setback plan that surrounding states have utilized in their hunting regulations for over a decade, providing more access to hunting areas that have become safe havens for deer.
But, he added, "Although, we are appreciative of the setbacks being cut from 500' to 150', we fear that this measure is dwarfed by deer management policies that fail to recognize the difference between Long Island deer management and upstate New York deer management."
Wildlife biologists and politicians are claiming that Long Island has an overpopulation of deer that is becoming epidemic, while and Cuomo answered the issue with language in his budget that would change setbacks statewide.
"Upstate New York and Long Island have completely different needs," Tessitore said. "What is even more amazing, is that Governor Cuomo was successful in taking away the rights of gun owners, almost overnight with New York's Safe Act, but cannot push through a responsible deer management Ppogram for Long Island, when taxpaying residents and politicians are begging for a solution. We are not impressed by this small step."
Tessitore said one of his group's members recently pointed out that the budget item is a memorandum in support, not an appropriations bill; therefore, the Legislature is not required to act.
"Forgive us for not celebrating just yet," he said. "Hunters For Deer will continue to push for less stringent hunting regulations for DMU 1C, more land access and a deer management plan that is specific to the needs of Long Island taxpayers and residents," he said.The deer culling solution has been under fire from both animal advocates and hunters for months, while the Southold population largely supports the plan.
Southold Town residents who turned out recently for a public information meeting on the proposed sharpshooter program to cull the deer herd had a message for public officials: Bring it on, and fast.
And according to Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell, the plan is slated to begin in March.
Two days after that deer meeting, a demonstration to oppose the sharpshooter program was held in East Hampton.