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Bow Hunting Provision In Deer Management Program Criticized

Matthew Hersh

Despite offering 4 to 1 approval of a resolution allowing for a fifth year of Princeton Township's deer management program, several members of Township Committee offered criticisms of the bow hunting element, calling it ineffective and potentially dangerous.

The New Jersey Fish and Game Council, the state faction that administers the management program, has, according to members on the Committee, coerced the Township into continuing the method that largely has been perceived as less than spectacular.

"We're being strong-armed by a particular part of a particular arm of the state that has particular interests," said Committeeman Bill Hearon, who cast a vote in favor of the resolution. Those interests, he added, are not ones of "neutrality" when it comes to "benefitting communities as a whole."

However, a concern among the proponents of the resolution was the risk of losing approval by the Fish and Game Council if the bow hunting element were not included. Only Committeeman Bernie Miller voted against the measure.

"It's a catch-22 situation," Mr. Hearon said. "If we do not approve this, we could jeopardize the whole program.

"I will vote for kicking the dragon because I see that there is one arm of the government that is dictating to us as a community what it is we're supposed to do."

Mr. Miller, who has historically voted against the bow hunting element, was a bit more direct: "The Township is being subjected to a subtle form of blackmail.

"[Bow hunting] has been unproductive, and there's no indication it will be improved in the future." Mr. Miller added that he worried people using the designated Township properties could be subjected to potentially dangerous situations.

Ed Schmierer, Township attorney, said while Township officials were attending a hearing by the Fish and Game Council last year, they were told in "no uncertain terms," that the program had to include some initiative that allowed bow hunting on public lands. "That could certainly be deleted, but I would almost guarantee that the application would be denied by the state if we were to do that."

"It's the fox guarding the hen house," said James Pascale, Township administrator. "[The council rates] revenues through licences, and they run their programs through their revenues, so they have a captive group that they need to placate.

"Everybody here agrees with Mr. Miller, and the only reason we're doing this is from a public safety point of view. We're unfortunately stuck."

Bow hunters are brought in to treat four areas in the Township: Woodfield Reservation; Autumn Hill Reservation; Fieldwood; and Stony Brook at Puritan Court. Hunters are permitted to work one half hour before sunrise and one half hour after sunset. Hunters are not permitted to take a kill on Sundays.

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