On Monday night, Princeton Township Committee voted to approve an ordinance that allows bow hunting in four Township parks. The ordinance, which passed by a vote of 4-1, was put through on the condition that the Committee can still negotiate methods of culling and deer management tactics.
The Committee emphasized that while it understood the concerns put forth by protestors, who have deemed bow hunting cruel and potentially hazardous to residents living near the four Township tracts, certain steps needed to be taken to alleviate the Township's deer problem.
"I did not think that I would be in a position to endorse [the ordinance]," said Township Mayor Phyllis Marchand, who had expressed previous concerns regarding safety. The Mayor went on to say that all the safety issues have been addressed and that she is "comfortable endorsing" the ordinance.
The vote was met with both praise and criticism from vocal Township residents as the Committee listened to both sides of the issue.
Frank Wiener of Loomis Court argued that the beliefs of the Committee do not accurately reflect the wants of the residents of the Township. He suggested that residents be "polled" after being fully "educated about bow hunting and how cruel bow hunting is" before passing an ordinance that allows it.
In contrast, Peter Hatherwell of The Great Road, praised the Committee for taking action on what he believed was an acute problem in the Township.
"I applaud [the Committee] for looking at a multi-faceted deer management program," Mr. Hatherwell said. "If there were a rampant rodent problem in the Township, it wouldn't be an issue." Mr. Hatherwell also said that he lives adjacent to the Woodfield Reservation, one of the tracts targeted for bow hunting.
The Township has contracted with White Buffalo, a private, professional organization, to conduct its deer management program. However, in July, the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife denied the Township's request for a permit to conduct a third year of deer management if the plan did not include bow hunting as one of the methods employed in deer culling. In August, a revised application was resubmitted that included this tactic.
The Township agreed to allow a limited number of bow hunters in four areas in the Township. Those areas are the Woodfield Reservation; Autumn Hill Reservation; Fieldwood; and Stony Brook at Puritan Court. Bow hunters are only allowed to operate during bow hunting season. This year, the season falls between September 6 and February 14.
Bernard Miller, who cast the dissenting vote on the ordinance, said that he has been happy with the direction of the current methods employed by the Township for deer management. While Mr. Miller voted to introduce the ordinance in August, he said that he did not see enough evidence to move forward with any augmentation.
"I feel we have had a very effective deer management program to date, and I see no need to introduce the bow hunting component at this point," Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Miller and other members of the Committee also expressed concern about the safety of bow hunting. The Committee cast a 3-2 vote on a resolution in favor of using the United Bowhunters of New Jersey (UBNJ) in the management program. However, in casting her vote of approval, Committeewoman Casey Hegener expressed some hesitation in allowing the program to be carried out as UBNJ has planned.
"We need to keep the issue open for discussion," she said before supporting the resolution. Matt Trembow, central regional coordinator for UBNJ, outlined the specific safety tactics engaged in by his organization. He told the committee that bow hunting is only done at a close range between 20-25 yards, is more efficient than shotgun use, and because hunters are situated in elevated tree stands, the risk of objects interfering with the target is reduced. Mr. Trembow also said the public would receive advance notice of times and areas where hunting will occur.
While bow hunting is currently illegal on Sundays in the state, Mr. Miller asked Mr. Trembow if it were possible to alter the program to refrain from hunting on Saturdays. "Saturdays and holidays are days where more people may venture into these areas," Mr. Miller said.
Mr. Trembow responded that the efficacy of the program will wane if methods are changed drastically, but emphasized UBNJ's commitment to working with the Township on matters of safety.
Deputy Mayor Bill Enslin agreed with Mayor Marchand that all safety issues have been properly addressed and will be safely executed.
"My grandchildren and I can use parks safely," Mr. Enslin said in expressing confidence in current and future deer management.