Hunting with a bow and arrow on Sundays could soon be legal on private properties in Connecticut. The state says it's a necessary move to control deer populations, especially in Fairfield County.
Over the last decade, the state has done a lot to cull deer populations. It's increased bag limits, created longer hunting windows, and a January crossbow season, but in certain areas of Connecticut, the deer still flourish.
Take, for example, Fairfield County. Rick Jacobson is with the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. He said most of the county's land is privately owned, "and as consequence, the capacity and the ability for hunters to be on the landscape is decreased," he said. "The overall harvest relative to the number of deer on the landscape is smaller. That allows for the population to grow more quickly and stay larger."
Statewide, Jacobson said the target deer population is about 20 per square mile. Fairfield has more than double that, which Jacobson said can hurt the health of forests and drive out other animals, like birds.
Up to this point, hunting with any weapon was illegal on Sunday. But now, the state wants to open that day up to bow and arrow hunters, if they do it on private land. After years of failed attempts, a bill has passed both the Senate and the House, but it still needs Governor Dannel Malloy's signature to become law. His office said it's reviewing the legislation.
In the meantime, bowhunting is getting more popular and hunters are hoping the governor will sign it.
"The rules and regulations for not allowing it, especially on private land, kind of blows my mind," said Gary Hall, a bowhunter in Coventry, Connecticut. "Why does the state get to say that the farmer who owns 300 acres can't hunt on his own land on Sunday?"
Since 2010, the DEEP said the number of graduates from bowhunting training courses has increased each year.
For the past two years, more deer have been taken in Connecticut with a bow and arrow than with a shotgun or rifle.
Roxanne Ryea has hunted with both guns and bows. "I actually prefer hunting with a bow," she said. "You're much closer to the game. It's more exciting. It's more challenging."
Ryea said stricter gun laws that went into effect in 2013 and higher ammunition costs have increased interest in bowhunting. "Basically in this sport you get your ammunition back, you don't have to buy it," she said.
Gary Hall and Ryea agreed on another point, too. They said opening up Sundays to bowhunting will benefit people who want time to hunt, but like Ryea, work every other day of the week.