EHT committeeman seeks to extend hunting season, bring back deer driving

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 Police chief argues against making changes

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Committeeman John Carman asked the township committee Wednesday, Feb. 13 to extend the deer-hunting season a few days and to allow hunters to be able to practice "deer driving" during those days.

 “A few residents have asked me why we can’t offer additional special permit days,” Carman said. “I really don’t see reason why not. We are only talking about a few more days per year.”

He asked the committee to delete a chapter in the township code that prohibits shotgun deer hunting except during the state’s six-day firearm season in December and to allow hunters to obtain state permits to hunt on a few additional days in January.

“I say we let them hunt on permit days. It’s their heritage – that’s what they’ve done for years and have done with their fathers, grandfathers, etc.”

The state allows additional special permitting days each January. Egg Harbor Township used to follow the same schedule, but after residents began complaining about hunters trespassing in their yards in the 1990s, the government adopted a more restrictive ordinance that limits the local hunting season to the six days in December.

 Deleting the chapter would allow residents to hunt on the additional state-designated days in January, and also to employ a practice known as deer driving on those days.

 Deer driving is defined in the code as “to intentionally pursue, drive, chase or otherwise frighten or cause deer to move in the direction of any person or persons known to be waiting for the deer.”

 According to Township Administrator Peter Miller, it was this practice specifically that residents had complained about, more so than hunting in January.

 “The main complaint of residents was seeing groups of hunters – anywhere from three to four to as many as 12 – moving systematically through the woods in their backyards,” Miller said.

While many of the committee members seemed to favor allowing extra hunting days in January and had no problem with allowing deer driving, Egg Harbor Township Police Chief Michael Morris spoke out against the measure, saying the changes are unnecessary.

“This historically has caused a problem,” he said. “Leave it as the six-day firearm period that everyone knows about. Changing it will cause fear and anxiety from homeowners when they see people in the woods.”

 Morris said that the rear of residents’ properties often do not have property markers, so hunters inadvertently may enter private property, “driving deer all over town.”

 “There’s no way to control it. We could advertise it, but it would be very difficult for the police department to enforce it,” he said.

 Carman said that the complaints spiked when new developments “were popping up all over the township,” especially in the Bargaintown section. He said there aren’t many open spaces where the hunters can drive deer, outside of the more forested Scullville section.

“They can’t drive in 60 percent of the township,” he said, so fewer people are likely to be affected this time.

 Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough said he remembers the complaints and that he voted in favor of the ordinance prohibiting January hunting and deer driving.

“We had complaints people walking down the road with guns,” he said. “I am not a hunter, so I guess I don’t understand these things.”

 Committeeman Paul Hodson said the township should mirror the state statute and pointed out that deleting the chapter would not remove the requirement that hunters need to stay 450 feet away from an occupied dwelling and need to have permission of the landowner to be on any private property. He said the game warden is the one who enforces those rules.

 Morris advised the committee to keep in mind that the more restrictive local ordinance was put in place for a reason and asked that they leave it in tact.

 Carman said he wants to go ahead with the change.

“If it creates a problem, I am not opposed to revisiting it. I will stand corrected,” he said.

 The measure is expected to be formally introduced at the Wednesday, Feb. 27 meeting. If approved, a public hearing and final vote would be held on March 27.

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