In addition to anti-animal-cruelty groups opposing a Long Island Farm Bureau proposal to cull thousands of deer on the East End this winter, a new organization made up of sportsmen has cropped up to fight the plan.
While others have challenged the cull on the grounds that it is inhumane, Hunters for Deer says that the plan is bad for the economy and unfair to taxpayers.
Michael Tessitore, an East Quogue sportsman, founded the advocacy group, which aims to compel government agencies and local municipalities to drop the culling program.
“They’re rushing this and saying, ‘We have to do this now,’ and our stance is, ‘We’re not gonna let you,'” Tessitore says.
The cull, which will bring in U.S. Department of Agriculture sharpshooters to carry out the task, is being planned for February. The sharpshooters will be allowed to employ various methods and tools that hunters are not permitted to exercise on Long Island, such as using bait, rifles and night vision goggles.
“It’s total disregard for the animal itself and it’s total disraged for the owners of the deer, the New York taxpayers,” Tessitore says.
He formed Hunters for Deer to unify businesses and hunters who had separately been collecting petition signatures, such as archers, taxidermists, etc. He says he is looking to give them one voice and start the conversation with policymakers.
He acknowledges that deer have became a nuisance on Long Island, but says “that’s why we have a hunting program.”
“We spend a lot of money every year as sportsmen and women,” he says, adding that much of the money they spend on permits goes toward preserving the environment.
Hunters could effectively cull the deer population if greater efforts were taken to grant hunters access to private lands and if hunters on Long Island could use methods that are legal in other states, such as baiting, according to Tessitore.
“i’ve asked farmers plenty of times if i can hunt their property, but I always get the answer, ‘no,'” Tessitore says. Hunters for Deer is pushing for the setbacks required for hunting on private property to be reduced.
Tessitore also wants regulations changed regarding how many deer hunters take in a season. “Hunters need to start taking more deer, they need to start taking more does—breeder does.”
The proponents of the culling program say the sharpshooters will focus their hunt on does, rather than the bucks that hunters prize, but Tessitore points out that bucks will have dropped their antlers in February. He quoted a friend and fellow hunter: “Are the USDA snipers gonna ask the deer to raise their legs so they can tell if they are does or bucks?”
Tessitore says hunting is a boon for the East End economy in the winter, as hunters from all over come here for Long Island’s world-class deer. He personally has been hunting since age 12; he is 42 now.
If the pleas from Hunters for Deer are not successful, Tessitore says they are prepared to file an injunction.
“The biggest problem I have is the fact they’re going to use taxpayer money to do it,” he says of the cull.