For the first time in Connecticut’s history, hunters have harvested more deer with arrows and bolts than bullets. According to the Hartford Courant, bow and crossbow users harvested at least 6,046 whitetail deer last season as opposed to the 4,340 deer harvested by firearm users. An additional 2,100 deer were taken by unspecified means, as landowners are not obligated to report which method they use to harvest deer on their land. The rising popularity of archery in Connecticut is leading lawmakers to consider an expansion of the bow and crossbow seasons. Legislators are also considering allowing bowhunting to take place on private land on Sundays, when hunters are usually barred from harvesting game.
If the legislation is passed, it would make Connecticut the latest to challenge the longstanding Sunday hunting ban that still exists in 10 states across the nation. Earlier this year, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law a bill that overturned the state’s 84-year-old Sunday hunting ban. Shortly after, Maryland lawmakers passed legislation that would lift the ban in their own state’s westernmost counties.
Any expanded opportunity will be a boon to Connecticut’s growing number of archers. Wildlife officials say that archery is a big draw among hunters because of its long four-month season and the easy accessibility of crossbows for disabled or younger hunters. Many sportsmen also prefer hunting as an alternative to deer culls carried out by state-sponsored sharpshooters.
Connecticut’s deer population has become the subject of controversy, as in many places urban deer have become overabundant. According to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, this leads to forest degradation and concerns over the spread of Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection commonly carried by deer that can be transmitted to humans. State records from 2006 show that since 1996, 29,000 human cases of Lyme disease have been reported in Connecticut. The state has one of the highest rates of the disease in the country.
Fear of Lyme disease ultimately led to culls of the state’s deer, including ones carried out by contracted sharpshooters in Redding and elsewhere. Many hunters and conservation groups disagree with the notion that deer are overpopulated, believing that the number of deer per square mile has been exaggerated. The state’s last deer estimate also occurred in 2006, when it peaked at 126,000 animals. The number of deer currently living in the state is expected to be much lower, although experts are unsure exactly how many whitetail deer remain in Connecticut.