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Island Residents Aim at Hunters ... Trenton Times Newspaper Article


Island residents aim at hunters
Sportsmen on river draw local opposition
Monday, December 10, 2007
TRENTON -- Birds chirping outside a bedroom window is one thing.
But being awakened by gunshots on a Saturday morning is as comforting as a bucket of cold water for some residents of the Island neighborhood, who say people hunting for geese and ducks on the islands of the Delaware River at the most inopportune hours have become a nuisance for those who live right along the river.
More troubling, say the neighbors, the hunters are endangering their safety.
"It's unsafe. I can't walk my dog," fumed resident Howard Robboy. "If I were standing outside I could get shot."
Donna Carson, who lives on Riverside Drive, said hunters start shooting around 6 a.m. and go until about 10 a.m.
"For (those) hours you're shaking wondering if your house is going to be hit," said Carson, who had the front windows on her second-floor bedroom shattered by pellets from a hunter's shotgun some 18 years ago.
In New Jersey, the duck season begins in October and extends, with an intermission, until early January. Geese can be hunted from September until February.
Trenton homeowners say sportsmen hunt from boats on the river or from Blaugard and Rotary islands, two small land masses just offshore.
"It's just not appropriate for your normal residential routine," said Emilie McCardell, a resident who worries about her 8-year-old son waiting for the school bus at dawn.
Hunters say they pose no threats.
"The majority of hunters are hunting on the Pennsylvania side of the islands and they're shooting up and down the river, not toward the banks," said one longtime sportsman who did not want to be identified. "Plus, they're using a lightweight shot that doesn't carry long distances like buckshot or slugs would. The range of the shot is 35 to 40 yards, or up to 120 feet, which is well below the 450 feet (hunters are) required to be from the houses."
While discharging firearms is illegal in Trenton, where the islands are technically located, the city makes an exception for hunting.
The state Department of Environmental Protection says hunting has been allowed on the Delaware River for decades. As long as hunters have valid licenses -- including the proper waterfowl hunting stamps -- and observe standard hunting laws, they can hunt on the river and the islands in it.
But recent complaints have prompted the state to re-examine the issue.
On the morning of Dec. 1, state police marine officers and DEP Fish and Game police boated up and down the Delaware River to determine if anyone was hunting illegally near the Island neighborhood. Because the Canada goose hunting season had just closed -- and the islands draw goose hunters almost exclusively -- there were no hunters, legal or otherwise, to be found.
As a precaution, a DEP official onshore used a laser device to measure the distance from the houses to the islands.
"They're outside the 450-yard safety zone," said Sean McManus, a conservation officer with the DEP law enforcement bureau. "They're legally huntable."
But not for long.
Neighbors' complaints prompted city police to reach out to the owners of Blaugard Island, who live out of state. "They have agreed to allow us to post 'No Hunting' signs there," said Trenton Police Lt. James Slack. "We'll be purchasing the signs and putting them up soon."
That leaves Rotary Island, which is under the auspices of the New Jersey DEP's bureau of Parks and Recreation. The state appears in no hurry to close off the land to sports hunters.
"Given the determination that the 450-foot buffer is there, we don't have any evidence in hand right now that suggests posting is warranted at this point," said Darlene Yuhas, a DEP spokeswoman.
But Yuhas said the state will be "keeping a close eye" on the area once the goose season reopens later this week.
"We do plan to step up enforcement in light of residents' concerns," she said.
Grace Bottitta, manager of conservation programs for the mid-Atlantic states, for Ducks Unlimited, a national wetlands conservation organization with many hunters as members, said historically the Delaware Bay was "fantastic" for waterfowl hunting. The duck population in general has declined in the last 30 years, but the Delaware Bay is still a great habitat for wildlife species. "It's a good (resting spot) for the migration going north and south," said Bottitta.
Bottitta said residents should be aware that the shotguns used by hunters have short ranges and generally are really safe. The shotguns have a short range because they shoot a "wide spread of pellets" instead of bullets, she said.
But, "just like there are good and bad people, there are some hunters that don't pay attention" and shoot with reckless aim, she said.
But the majority follow the rules, she added.
For most, said Bottitta, hunting is about "hanging out, enjoying the marsh, the views and getting some dinner."
That doesn't sit well with Island residents who insist that hunting was banned on the islands in recent years.
City police would use bullhorns to drive away hunters who were spotted, residents say. Times have changed, and now when police officers are called they tell residents there is nothing they can do.
City police could not say whether they ever tried to chase away hunters.
Island residents say their issue is not with the sport but with the disruption of their quality of life.
"It's been pretty much a constant, but you just never know what morning it is going to be," David Busted said of the hunters. Busted said he had a frightening experience a few years ago when he yelled to a hunter out on the river that hunting was not allowed. Busted said it appeared as if the hunter shot his gun in his direction to scare him.
"I saw the fire coming out of the gun. I heard the pellets rippling through the leaves (past me)," said Busted.
Under New Jersey Fish and Wildlife regulations, hunters in New Jersey are required to have a state hunting license, a harvest information program certification, a federal migratory bird hunting and conservation stamp, and a state waterfowl stamp to hunt. Hunting hours for ducks and geese are between a half hour before sunrise to sunset.
Yuhas said the department invests resources in educating hunters about safety. Nevertheless, "it is pretty much up to the hunter to abide by those laws -- just like drivers," she said.
If residents are concerned or believe fish and wildlife regulations have been violated, Yuhas said they should call their local police or the DEP hot line at 1-877-WARNDEP. While people prefer to remain anonymous when calling in a complaint, she said it helps to have someone on the scene to get the details needed for a follow-up investigation.
Yuhas said given that particular area, the sound of shots will travel quite a distance because the hunters are out in the water. If the hunters are properly licensed and maintain the required distance within an occupied dwelling, they are not violating any fish and hunting laws, said Yuhas. "It is duck season on the Delaware," said Yuhas.
Staff writer Lisa Coryell contributed to this report. Contact Eva Loayza at or (609) 989-5717.

middle island has been posted, others likely to follow.

Charlie D:
ashame.  Guess we just sit by and watch. Maybe middle island would make a nice hunting lease.

ahhh...i hunt  the Delaware River and have  always been safe...i don't hunt the islands because of  what might happen...the people that have seen  me   wave to me all the time...i setup more  then the safety zone requirement...i guess i hunt on  the  area the yuppies don't live....The  river is public and  they can bitch and moan all they  want half  the time we  can't  even hunt the river  because  the  waters flood....heck i got 2  days on the river this was  awful....its  not like them guys are there all the time....they just have to have  something to complain about...the don't relaize we're loseing our hunting their dang house  building...and i'm sorry for them if their house  was peppered...but the  river is almost all we have....wish they would lighten up...i'm  alil tired of people moaning up that part of  the river....heck if i was'nt  for our money, there would'nt be  any fishing !!!!!!!!! ::)


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