Cuomo throws support behind reducing hunting setbacks

NYS EXECUTIVE CHAMBER COURTESY PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo in Albany last year.
NYS EXECUTIVE CHAMBER COURTESY PHOTO | Governor Andrew Cuomo in Albany last year.

While local hunters have been calling for reduced hunting regulations during months of spirited debate over a planned deer cull expected to start early next month in Southold, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in the details of his executive budget last week that he favors reducing bowhunting setbacks throughout the state.

East End assemblymen Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) and Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) have said they’re making it a priority to pass a bill this legislative session that would, among other things, reduce bowhunting setbacks from 500 feet from a structure to 150 feet. A version of that bill stalled in the Assembly’s economic conservation committee last year after passing the state Senate.

Mr. Cuomo stated in a memoranda of support in his executive budget that reducing setbacks, “would maintain a safe distance for engaging in the sport while making available for hunting more lands in suburban areas, which would increase hunting opportunities, and help manage locally over-abundant deer populations.”

While the governor’s suggestion — which would still require legislative approval — would take place statewide, Mike Tessitore, with Hunters for Deer, said on Monday that the suggestion still shows that the governor doesn’t recognize the challenges that hunters on Long Island face amid an overpopulation of deer.

He said additional measures should be taken to relax the regulations in Long Island.

“He’s still not willing to recognize that [Long Island’s hunting zone] is different than upstate New York,” he said. “It shows once again that he’s so fixated on not looking at what Long Island’s needs are.”

Mr. Thiele reported last week that an effort to push forward the version of the bill that died in committee last year is looking better this year so far. That bill would only reduce bowhunting setbacks among the five East End towns.

While legislators on the state level are working at giving hunters more allowances, leaders in Southold Town in cooperation with the Long Island Farm Bureau are still moving forward with a plan to pay the United States Department of Agriculture to come in and cull the local deer herd. A meeting open to members of the public on Jan. 16 was well-attended by Suffolk County hunters, including Mr. Tessitore, who argued that the plan should not be carried through since the USDA sharpshooters will be “doing all the things that we’re not allowed to do to be successful,” including hunting at night, baiting deer and using noise-suppressed rifles while culling the herd — all of which are largely illegal to the general public in New York State (baiting is permitted in rare circumstances).

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said at the Jan. 16 meeting that while he supported the deer cull — for which the town is expected to pay $25,000, to the LIFB’s $200,000 — hunting would be the long-term solution to getting the deer population under control, and relaxing restrictions would be key to that effort.

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