Hunterdon County, NJ - more fun for disabled killers
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Hunterdon County, NJ - more fun for disabled killers

CONTACT (no matter where you live, but especially if you live in Hunterdon County, NJ):

(1). The Hunterdon County, NJ Board of Freeholders
freeholders@co.hunterdon.nj.us
Phone: 908-788-1102
FAX: 908-806-4236

(2). John Trontis, Director, Hunterdon County Department of Parks and Recreation
jtrontis@co.hunterdon.nj.us
Phone: 908-782-1158
FAX: 908-806-4057

CC Steve Loomis, General Manager of the Heron Glen Golf Course, in Rarita, where the disabled killers slaughtered deer yesterday and today, and will continue tomorrow (2/2/08) sloomis@kempersports.com 

*****

Submit letters to eletters@starledger.com 

http://www.nj.com:80/news/ledger/somerset/index.ssf?/base/news-2/1201844280300760.xml&coll=1 

Unique season opens for hunters

Deer hunt for people with disabilities adds to county parks debate

Friday, February 01, 2008

BY JOE TYRRELL

Star-Ledger Staff

Hunterdon County's deer hunt for people with disabilities, unique in New Jersey, has begun with more participants than last year, and with a new twist to the controversy over hunting in county parks.

The controlled hunt is taking place on the county's Heron Glen Golf Course in Raritan Township, currently closed to golfers. Starting at dusk yesterday and continuing today and tomorrow, 16 disabled hunters from around the state were scheduled to take positions in five temporarily constructed hunting blinds to await their chance for a shot at a deer.

"We're serving people with a variety of disabilities," said county Parks Director John Trontis. "Some are literally in wheelchairs, some can walk with the aid of a walker; there's an individual who is paraplegic."

All are licensed hunters and have the assistance of volunteers, he said, and in one spot, a hydraulic lift that creates an elevated blind.

A dozen disabled hunters took a total of six deer on the golf course last year, when the event was initiated by the county parks and recreation department and the National Wild Turkey Federation.

The hunt generated positive publicity [so, letís give them some bad publicity!] and brought thanks from participants who had hunted regularly until disabilities curbed their mobility. But it also sparked complaints from hunting opponents, who were already questioning the safety of opening other Hunterdon park properties to people with guns or bows.

Raritan Township resident Margaret Andersen said she tried to raise the issue in advance of this year's hunt but that she and other hunt opponents were given the run-around by Hunterdon officials. Freeholders variously referred her to the deer management committee, which favors hunts, or the parks advisory board, she said.

The advisory board was "a red herring" with no power to set policy, she said.

Minutes of the advisory board's Nov. 5 meeting describe "a rather heated" debate between Andersen and board member Peter Tarricone on the advisability of the disabled hunt. They also show that after Andersen left, Tarricone suggested future public comments be pre-screened to prevent discriminatory remarks.

Trontis, who took the minutes, said: "I will never exclude any statement that's made by the public. It's a public meeting."

Freeholder Director Erik Peterson agreed screening comments would be inappropriate. "We want to encourage residents to give their opinions" at public meetings, he said.

Andersen then spoke at the freeholders' meeting last month, and Peterson said they will consider her comments for next year.

Andersen accused the freeholders of using the disabled event as cover for an "aggressive" hunting program.

"There's 82 percent of our parkland that's hunted, and visitors are advised to use blaze orange six days a week, six months a year," she said.

Trontis said: "Most of our controlled hunts are intended to reduce the damage to the underbrush and the significant devastation" to other plants and wildlife habitat. "If some of the other techniques were workable to control deer populations, including contra ception techniques, I'd try them."

The current hunt for people with disabilities "is the one thing we do that's actually intended to provide opportunities to people who otherwise would be unable to hunt," he added.

While the hunters pre-registered, the parks department will try to accommodate any additional callers today or tomorrow, he said.

Joe Tyrrell may be reached at jtyrrell@starledger.com or (908) 429-9925.

© 2008 The Star Ledger
© 2008 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.

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