2016-01-29 / Front Page

Cape seeks truce between bowhunters, residents

By Duke Harrington
Staff Writer

CAPE ELIZABETH — Complaints about bowhunters have prompted the town council to sponsor a public education effort on rules surrounding the sport, although it stopped short of moving to restrict the season here.

The issue was raised at a Jan. 7 workshop by Councilor Sara Lennon, who has had recent run-ins with bowunters on her property, off Cranbrook Road.

In one incident this past fall, Lennon said, she questioned a hunter crossing her property, who pointed out three tree stands erected on adjacent land owned by the town.

“There’s something about a tree stand that’s unsettling,” she said. “A tree stand covered in camouflage, dead-bolted to a tree within sight of my home, where somebody has set up what amounts to a temporary home that overlooks my yard, that freaks me out.”

Lennon also recounted a recent altercation a neighbor of hers reportedly had with a bowhunter, who had put up a tree stand on private property, without permission. When confronted about the location of the stand, the hunter allegedly pointed his bow at the property owner.

“So, that was scary,” Lennon said. “And lots of times we’ve had people walking across property in the area and when asked if they have permission to hunt there, they say, ‘Yes, I do,’ but, as it turns out, they actually don’t.

“There have been a lot of not-pleasant-at-all interactions, and people hunting in what is basically our backyards, and many of these people are not from Cape Elizabeth, leaving many citizens feeling quite intimidated, and even afraid, especially children,” Lennon said.

Lennon suggested banning bow hunting from public land in Cape Elizabeth, or at least refusing permission to erect tree stands on town-owned property. She also raised the idea of limiting the extended bow hunting season in town.

“Right now, it’s three and a half months where people feel compelled to wear orange, and put orange on their dogs,” Lennon said. “I personally don’t allow my dog out in my yard during the day during the expanding season, because I’m afraid a hunter is going to shoot him.”

Lennon’s fellow councilors were not ready to go that far, but did agree to invite a state game warden to make a public presentation on archery rules and regulations just prior to hunting season this fall. The town also should reach out to residents through local newspapers, they said.

In Wildlife Management District 24, which includes much of the Maine coast from Kittery to Phippsburg, archery hunting of deer is allowed from mid- September until early December. The exact dates vary each year. In much of this area, including in Cape Elizabeth, hunting with firearms is banned by municipal ordinances. Cape allows the discharge of firearms only at the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club, in the tidal marshes near the Scarborough border, and on Great Pond.

Towns in District 24 may withdraw from the expanded season, Lennon said, limiting bow hunting to the regular archery season, which lasts throughout the month of October.

But not all councilors were on board with that idea.

“If we eliminated or cut down on hunting, we already have a substantial deer population in Cape Elizabeth, and we have a lot of farm lands that would be drastically impacted by an increased deer population,” Councilor Caitlin Jordan said.

Councilor Jessica Sullivan noted that Cape Elizabeth’s open space management plan already places limits on bow hunting, including requiring hunters obtain permission at town hall to erect tree stands on public property. That policy, adopted by the council in 2012, also says permission will be denied to erect tree stands within 100 yards of any home, or within 10 yards of any walking trail. By state law, tree stands must be registered and tagged with the owner’s contact information, and must be removed at the end of the season. In the past, Sullivan said, the town has removed unregistered stands, as well as ones that have been left in place.

Council Chairman Martha MacAusian asked Town Manager Michael McGovern if the issue should be referred to the local conservation commission for review, but that appeared to be a non-starter.

“The committee looked at this extensively two years ago,” McGovern said. “I just worry that you’re asking them to look at something they just did.

“This is an emotionally charged issue. Even if you give this to a town committee, you’re going to be involved in this,” he added.

Councilor James Garvin, meanwhile, said there are enough limits in place already.

“We have a lot of policies and regulations in state law that addresses this issue,” he said. “I think this sounds like an issue of enforcement, education and communication, rather that one of creating new regulations.

“The hunters I know are incredibly conscientious and a focused on stewardship of both the land and whatever species they are hunting,” Garvin said. “As long as we are providing for it to be done safely, there should be no further exclusions than we have today.”

“I basically agree,” Lennon said. “Once we weigh into this, it’s just going to become an unnecessary battle. But I would love to encourage the education piece.”

That education, Lennon said, should be directed at the hunters, as well as town residents, to make sure everyone knows their rights and responsibilities.

“We’re not their enemy,” Lennon said of bow hunters. “They don’t need to be so hostile and threatening. They should be polite and work with us.”

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