Quiet, a word not normally associated with shotguns, was the description police and wildlife officials used to describe the first week of the two-week deer shotgun season that began Monday Nov. 26.
There were fewer hunters and deer seen when compared with previous years and one police complaint stemming from an incident that occurred on opening day.
Monday Chilmark police chief Tim Rich said police plan to issue a summons to Jeffrey Lynch of Chilmark for discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building and trespass.
Based on the number of deer brought to the deer check station housed in an old wood building at the entrance to the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest, and hunter comments about a lack of deer, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) may be accomplishing its goal of reducing the Island deer herd.
Saturday evening about 5:45 pm, John Scanlan, a DFW forester, stood in the deer check station waiting for hunters. "The place is dead," said Mr. Scanlan. "This is highly unusual."
In years past the end of legal shooting time one half hour after sunset on a Saturday would have meant a line of trucks filled with hunters clad in blaze orange arriving to check in deer.
As of Saturday evening, Mr. Scanlan had checked in 117 deer. Last year, which he noted was a good year, he checked in 196 deer. The first day of shotgun season is generally the day that accounts for the highest tally, but he checked in only 17 deer on Monday last week. That figure is considerably down from the 61 checked on the opening day of the 2006 season.
Glenn Pachico and Zeb Tilton of Tisbury were among the few hunters to pull into the check station with deer late Saturday. Both men are experienced Island hunters. Mr. Pachico said he and the group of hunters he hunts with each year had seen fewer deer than in previous years, and the gang had worked harder for the deer they did get.
Nimrods invited to test skills at Black Powder Deer Shoot competition Sunday
Spectators and competitors are invited to The Martha's Vineyard Rod and Gun Club Black Powder Deer Shoot Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm at the club's shooting range in Edgartown. Events will include target and reload competitions.
The annual competition provides Island hunters with an opportunity to test their skills on the eve of the three-week black powder deer season. Spectators can watch competitors shoot a variety of one-shot rifles, from 18th-and 19th-century style flintlocks and percussion caps to the more and very accurate modern in-lines.
The competition is divided into three categories: flintlock, open sights, scoped rifle. Each competitor will shoot twice at a standing target and a hanging target. In the reload competition they will then shoot, reload, and shoot again at a standing target. Competitors who hit the target will receive ten points, minus the time between shots.
This year's contest will honor the memory of club member and Civil War buff Bill Nicholson of Oak Bluffs. A new award and $100 cash prize in his memory will be awarded to the outstanding black powder contest participant. The award was established by Bill's long-time friend, Eddie Belisle of Edgartown.
There is a $15 registration fee for all competitors. The contest is open to the public. The Club is located at the end of Third Street off the Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road.
Mr. Scanlan weighed each animal, examining their jaws to determine the ages of the animals, and assessing their general physical condition. He then affixed metal tags that signified the animals were checked in as required by law.
Mr. Scanlan has been traveling from the mainland to the Vineyard to staff the check-in station for approximately 20 years. For most of the year, he works in forests. He said the opportunity to spend a week on the Vineyard is welcome and enjoyable.
"It's always a pleasure," Mr. Scanlan said, adding that he enjoys the contact with people who enjoy the outdoors and listening to hunting stories and exploits.
Mr. Scanlan said many people do not understand the service that hunters provide by controlling the deer population on the Vineyard. He said the Island deer herd continues to look healthy. "There are a lot of young animals which is what you want to see. It indicates good reproduction," he said.
Mr. Scanlan said the low tally was likely the result of fewer hunters and poor weather. He said Monday was so wet and miserable that a lot of hunters did not go out. Tuesday was windy and warm.
In poor weather deer often hunker down in thick vegetation. Those conditions favors gangs of hunters who divide into pushers, who push the deer from their hiding places, and standers, who shoot at the deer.
The largest deer Mr. Scanlan weighed in was a 175-pound ten-point buck shot by Jim Creedon of West Tisbury. "It was a very nice animal," said Mr. Scanlan.
The state forest check station is staffed one week. During the second week of shotgun season and the archery and black powder season hunters must bring their deer to one of several local check stations.
The state forest numbers do not necessarily tell the whole story but do provide an indicator of what the final tally will be. Another indicator comes from the Wampanoag Tribe check station.
Bret Stearns, Wampanoag Natural Resources officer, said the Tribe weighed in 104 deer the first week, which generally accounts for most of the deer brought in. In 2006 the Tribe's check station's two-week shotgun tally was 181 deer.
Mr. Stearns said he thinks that many of the gang hunters came up with fewer deer than usual, even with the same amount of effort. "This could be a combination of several things, including weather and simply deer getting around the hunters," he said, adding that there appear to be fewer people hunting this year.
That would reflect a general decline in the number of hunters on the Vineyard and across the state. Although hunting licenses may be purchased on line, over the counter purchases provide an indication of that decline.
According to Island town clerks, 395 people purchased hunting licenses in 2006. In 2007 that number was 346.
Environmental Police Sergeant Patrick Grady said that except for one case in Chilmark the first week of shotgun season was very quiet.
That incident began when a man looked out his window and saw a hunter standing on his property.
Chilmark police responded to a report of a hunter who refused to leave Russell Maloney's property on Rock Roe Path, off Meeting House Road.
According to a report by officer Jeff Day, Mr. Maloney saw Mr. Lynch standing in his backyard and yelled for him to leave his property. Mr. Lynch walked to the edge of the property boundary and stood there waiting while his friends pushed deer from the adjoining property. An eight-point buck ran by, and Mr. Lynch shot it.
Officer Day interviewed the parties involved and examined the shell casings. He also measured the distance from the hunter's location to Mr. Maloney's house.
It is against the law to discharge a firearm within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling, without the permission of the owner. Using a laser instrument, police determined that the distance was 307.7 feet.
After receiving a citation for discharging his weapon, Mr. Lynch and his fellow hunters left. But that was not the end of it.
While taking photographs of the scene, officer Day found a shotgun wad on a path leading to Mr. Maloney's driveway and drops of blood indicating where the deer died. "There were two posted 'no trespassing' signs between the place Mr. Lynch had fired his gun and the place where the deer had died," he wrote.
He summed up: "After reviewing the circumstances, which included viewing two separate posted signs, which Mr. Lynch passed four times on his travels on and off the Maloney property [and the] fact that Mr. Lynch was told to get off the property by Mr. Maloney and then he returned after shooting the deer, I amended the original charge to add a second charge of trespass after notice."