The Haudenosaunee won’t use shotguns during future native deer hunts in the Dundas Valley to help ease neighbours’ concerns.
Chris Firth-Eagland, chief administrative officer for the Hamilton Conservation Authority, said Haudenosaunee representatives committed to use only bows from now on during a meeting to discuss the latest hunt, which ended Jan. 17.
They also agreed to review the duration and size of the hunt, which presently has an 80-deer limit set by a protocol agreement two years ago that requires hunters to stay at least 150 metres from homes.
Firth-Eagland said he was still awaiting confirmation of this year’s eight-week hunt results, but the number of deer killed again fell shy of 40, likely “because they know they’re being hunted now.”
Thirty-one deer were taken during the 2011 hunt, which was two weeks shorter and ended before Christmas.
“The deer are more wary,” he said. “They’re acting more like deer again.”
Firth-Eagland said neighbours were most bothered by the use of shotguns and resumption of this year’s hunt for two weeks in January, and it was the Haudenosaunee who suggested switching to bows and reconsidering the January portion.
The hunt closed the area bounded by Powerline, Martin, Jerseyville and Paddy Green roads Monday to Thursday.
“They’re showing the leadership,” he said. “They’re being, I would suggest, very respectful of the circumstance and I can be quoted that I consider their harvest to be successful from the parameters that we would have at the conservation authority – cooperation, trust, communication.”
Firth-Eagland said the Haudenosaunee have also offered to help assess deer populations in the valley if the lack of snow continues to stall plans for another aerial survey this winter.
A previous helicopter survey taken by the Ministry of Natural Resources in 2009 counted 505 deer in the valley, or nearly 300 more than the ministry considers ecologically desirable.
Firth-Eagland said an aerial survey needs two 15-centimetre snowfalls, which make deer herd and more visible from the air.
If it can’t proceed as hoped, he hopes to find alternative ways to assess the populations to ensure the hunt remains “ecology-based,” ones that may take longer to do and involve the Haudenosaunee and other volunteers.
But the authority has no desire to challenge the Haudenosaunee’s treaty rights to hunt in the valley, he added.
“We do want to respect their spiritual, cultural, social needs,” Firth-Eagland said. “It’s an opportunity for them to have a success in a practice that links all those together for them.”