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MA: Nantucket hunter shot one hour into shotgun deer season

Nantucket hunter shot one hour into shotgun deer season
December 02, 2008 6:00 AM
MATTHEW M. BURKE

NANTUCKET - A hunter was shot Monday morning by another hunter in the first hour of shotgun deer hunting season on Nantucket, officials said.

The hunter's condition was unknown last night because the Nantucket police, the Nantucket Fire Department, the state Division of Fisheries & Wildlife and a Boston Medical Center spokesman all declined to release the hunter's name or to comment on his condition.

Earlier in the day, Nantucket police said the man's injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

Police were called to Eel Point Road, located in the northwest section of the island, at 7:31 a.m., a Nantucket Police Department spokesman said. The hunter was found with buckshot injuries to the left thigh area, abdomen and groin.

The hunter was taken to Nantucket Cottage Hospital by the Nantucket Fire Department, a department spokesman said. He was later flown by the Coast Guard to Boston Medical Center, said Lisa Capone, a spokeswoman for the state Division of Fisheries & Wildlife. The hunter was wounded in a sport that has decreased in popularity over the past decade, according to state officials.

Since 1998 there have been 25 hunting accidents reported to the state - a figure that covers all hunting seasons, ranging from deer, coyote and bear to duck and crow, Capone said.

"The last fatal hunting accident was in 2005," Capone said. "Before that the most recent was 1990."

In fiscal year 1987, the state issued 118,644 hunting licenses. In fiscal year 2007, the most recent figures available, the state issued 70,131 hunting licenses, a drop of 40 percent, according to Massachusetts Wildlife, a Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

State officials are not sure why the number has taken such a steep decline in the past decade, but said the number seems to have stabilized in the past couple of years.

Lee Boisvert, owner of Riverview Bait and Tackle in South Yarmouth, runs one of the state-approved deer check-in stations.

Boisvert, who keeps a pot of venison stew bubbling in his shop during deer season, said he seldom sees new faces in the hunting world.

"Younger folks just aren't taking up hunting," he said.

Brian Flannagan, at the Wellfleet Mobil Station, another state check-in station, agreed.

"When I was a kid there were 20 places around you could deer hunt; now there are one or two," he said.

It is ironic, he said, that at a time when deer populations are on the rise, fewer people are hunting them.

"Deer here are much lower weight than in other states," he said. "A 90-pound deer here would be 150 to 200 pounds in another state because they have more access to food."

Boisvert blamed the decline in hunters on the number of hunting areas and changes in gun permit requirements that make getting hunting licenses a more complicated procedure.

Flanagan also said the process for getting a hunting license in Massachusetts discourages some people. "To get a license, you have to take a hunter safety course," Flannagan said.

"When my buddy Gary decided to get one, the nearest place to take the course was Springfield. Some people just aren't going to drive that far. Maybe it would help if there were courses closer," he said.

The state Web site for the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife does not list any current classes and says to check back in 2009.

All first-time hunters must have a government-issued Basic Hunter Education Certificate in order to purchase a hunting or sporting license in any state, Canada and Mexico, according to the Web site.

Additionally, popular culture takes an increasingly dim view of hunting, Flannagan said.

"I know guys who fill their freezers with meat, but those are the hunters who are going to go out of state where the laws make it easier to hunt," Flannagan said.  

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