Neighbors To Duck Hunters: Move Upriver

Ian Christmann PhotoSome mornings Ed Schwartz hears a “pop, pop, pop” volley of shots from duck hunters in boats on the Quinnipiac River off the Land Trust preserve.

Fellow condo owner Andrea Dobras was awakened on early Saturday mornings over the 2017 Christmas break by shots ringing out and hunters getting out of their boats to pick up the fallen avians.

They both said they worry that the hunting activities –  all perfectly legal –  pose a danger to the increasingly busy New Haven Land Trust preserves right along the water, with the trails being utilized by more birders, school groups, and tourists than ever before.

So Dobras, Schwartz, and Claudia Elferdink — all residents of different riverine condos on the east side of the Q — have formed Friends of the Quinnipiac Meadows Preserve and are distributing flyers whose headline reads: “Move the Gunfire Out of Our Backyard!” The goal of their campaign: to convince the state to expand the prohibited area of hunting from its current line all the way up the river beyond the section of I-91 that bounds across the river to the railroad bridges.

They brought their campaign to the regular meeting of the Quinnipiac East Community Management Team meeting Tuesday night at Ross/Woodward School.

Back in 2009, when hunting was still permitted in Fair Haven all along the river to the harbor, a series of fowl shooting incidents  around the condos convinced the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Natural Resources Wildlife Division  to create a new prohibited area.

To quote from the state Migratory Bird Guide’s list of prohibited areas: Item 25: Waterfowl hunting is prohibited from the shores and waters of the Quinnipiac River downstream from a line extending from the southernmost tip of Fargeorge Preserve (Granniss Island) at the mouth of Hemingway Creek, across the river to Lombard street, south to the Amtrak/Route 1 bridge near the mouth of New Haven Harbor.

Roll the clock ahead to this year, and the New Haven Land Trust’s preserve on the Q is busier than ever,  far more so than in 2009. The Trust and residents now seek to have that line of prohibition extended northward up the river to the railroad bridges right beyond I-91.

Dobras and Elferdink made their pitch to 25 sympathetic listeners at the management team meeting. Dobras argued that the area overlooking the preserve, adjacent to which hunting is still permitted is “not an appropriate area for hunting.”

“It’s a safety issue. I look out [of my window] and see people. The preserve is now a classroom,” said Schwartz.

Between the condos and homes on the east and Lombard Street neighborhood by Front Street on the west, there’s no truly safe direction to shoot, Dobras said.

She made clear the decision is one to be made at the state level. She asked people to add their signatures to a petition to be brought to the attention of State Rep. Alphonse Paolillo and State Sen. Marty Looney.

Dobras conceded that none of the hunting incidents she and other residents noted violated the law. In permitted areas hunters need to stay in their boats, remain 250 feet away from buildings, and shoot away from inhabited areas. They are permitted to get out of the boats to retrieve killed birds..

DEEP Migratory Bird Program Leader Min Huang reported in an email that organizers will have to prove their case.

“It should be noted,” he wrote, “that waterfowl hunting has been taking place safely for many years along several heavily developed Connecticut shoreline areas that have similar situations [to Fair Haven’s]. The Department will not deny hunters the opportunity to recreate on state owned properties or in public trust areas based on concerns or the perception that the situation is unsafe.”

He emphasized if residents feel hunters are trespassing on the preserve or hunting too close to houses, they should call the environmental police. (And this reporter can report that at the DEEP 24-hour hotline to report violations, they do answer the phone: 1-800-842-4357.)

To merit closure, according to current state statutes, an area must either have a history of violations or present what Huang termed “the physical nature of the setting leading to hunters violating the law. “

Dobras emphasized that she feels there are enough nearby residential dwellers on the east side of the river and residents of Lombard Street on the west, to make any shooting unsafe. Those two points roughly make the line at which, going north, shooting is still permitted.

The hunters are allowed to shoot in the early morning. One of the hunters issued a warning back in 2009,  Bob Hruskocy, had come down before dawn from East Hartford with some buddies. These days, with more and more houses crowding out open space, “it’s harder and harder to find good spots” to hunt, he said at the time. When ice closes in on his regular hunting territory, he looks south for open water. He doesn’t aim to “piss off” anybody and tries to follow the rules, he said. (Read about that here.)

An additional potential argument was offered by The New Haven Land Trust (NHLT) Executive Director Justin Elicker. “Our concern,” Elicker said, “is the increasing [number of] people on preserve trails. It might not have been taken into consideration [in 2009]. There are lots of other areas up the river to hunt. It makes sense to move the prohibition line to the railroad tracks.”

The organizers have already alerted Paolillo and Looney to their concerns, with the hope the legislators will bring the proposal to extend the prohibited area to the attention of DEEP.

“There’s a committee that reviews boundaries,” reported Elicker. “Also I was told it’s in the authority of the” DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee to make changes.

“So shouldn’t we be writing to Robert Klee?” proposed zoning attorney and longtime Fair Haven booster Marjorie Shansky, who was also in attendance.

“That’s a good suggestion,” Elicker replied.

Dobras reported the group has 150 local signatures, with the number growing. You can review and consider signing the petition here. For those interested in future meetings and developments, the contact is: andreadobras@hotmail.com

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Comments

posted by: Fairhavener on February 8, 2018  4:18pm

“He doesn’t aim to “piss off” anybody and tries to follow the rules, he said.”

We get it, you don’t mean to do it. But still, you are showing up at 6 am shooting gun shots within feet from houses/bedroom windows not expecting to piss people off is juvenile.

posted by: NHNative on February 8, 2018  5:02pm

Note to Editor: your photo is of Canada Geese, not ducks.  But that’s OK because it’s now goose hunting season, at least for another week west of the Quinnipiac I believe.  Canada Geese have become overpopulated recently, and hunting can play a role in controlling that population—and in reducing the mess they leave on our lawns and parks.

posted by: Elmer Shady on February 8, 2018  5:08pm

The Condo Developers should offer special ‘hunting lodge rates’....

posted by: wendy1 on February 8, 2018  9:37pm

I feel sorry for the ducks AND the neighbors.

posted by: robn on February 8, 2018  10:23pm

No problem with Hunting but big problem with shooting where civilians might get hit. Is there some kind of special maritime dispensation preventing NHPD from arresting people who fire weapons in rivers in the city limits?

posted by: 1644 on February 8, 2018  11:57pm

rob:  What could they be arrested for?  As the article states, their activity is perfectly legal.  Waterfowl hunters need to use steel bird shot and be no less than 250 feet from buildings.

posted by: Elmer Shady on February 9, 2018  2:18am

Robn,

If people are flying around in the air over the waterway, SHOOT.!!!!

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on February 9, 2018  7:47am

Robn, yes. As the story notes, state law permits bird hunting on specified stretches of rivers.  The law does not provide a local option on this issue, although it bans such hunting In the highly urbanized town of Westport.

posted by: robn on February 9, 2018  8:18am

KM

Why is this different from the various other places in the US like Chicago or NY where police are regularly dispatched to enforce local laws on waterways passing through their towns? If NHV has laws about use of firearms in the city limits, why would state law supersede that?

posted by: robn on February 9, 2018  9:47am

1644,

Here are a couple.

New Haven Code of General Ordinances
Chapter 19 - PARKS, RECREATION AND TREES
Sec 19-5

(6) Wildlife. No person shall hunt, molest, harm, frighten, kill, trap, pursue, chase, tease, shoot or throw missiles at any animal, wildlife, reptile or bird; nor remove or have in his/her possession the young of any wild animal, nor the egg, nest or young of any reptile or bird. However, any snake known to be deadly poisonous may be killed on sight.

(12) Firearms. It shall be unlawful for any person to bring into or have in his/her possession in any park or recreation area: (i) Any pistol, revolver or object(s) in which loaded or blank cartridges may be used, except for official starters at authorized track and field events. (ii) Any burglar tool(s), implement(s) or similar equipment. (iii) Any rifle, shotgun, air gun, spring gun, slingshot, bow or other weapon in which the propelling force is gunpowder, a spring or compressed air.

posted by: 1644 on February 9, 2018  11:24am

Robn: I am guessing the ordinances you cite govern behavior in city parks.  These hunters are not in a city park, they are on a navigable waterway regulated by the state and federal government.

BTW, I live near the shore, and people hunt waterfowl near me.

posted by: born&raisedNH; on February 9, 2018  12:04pm

That hunting photo is awesome!

posted by: 1644 on February 9, 2018  3:59pm

Robn:  Connecticut statutes give the DEEP commissioner the power to regulate hunting.  Whatever might happen in another state, unless based on federal law, has no bearing on Connecticut. BTW, New Haven doesn’t have general laws about the discharge of firearms.  The state statute is as follows: “Any person who intentionally, negligently or carelessly discharges any firearm in such a manner as to be likely to cause bodily injury or death to persons or domestic animals, or the wanton destruction of property, shall be guilty of a class C misdemeanor.”

posted by: Zack on February 10, 2018  3:02am

Waterfowl hunting has been safely going on there before this preserve was ever established.
Hunting Is Safer Than Golf and Most Other Recreational Activities.
Waterfowl hunters use small shot, the biggest allowed by law is bb or #2 sized.
If hunters are hunting at least 250 ft from an occupied dwelling in a tidal area as the law alows and are doing so in a safe manner there is no danger to anyone.
The range of the 12 gauge shotgun is anywhere from 1 yd to 50 yards. Some stray shot pellets may reach to 80 or 85 yards max and they are just falling at that point.  Also hunting in this area is primarily done in winter when most non-tidal areas are frozen.
I believe this area should be able to be used by all. People should be able to use the preserve and hunters should be able the hunt.
Most waterfowl hunters also donate to Ducks unlimited and Total Acreage Conserved
in North America as of January 1, 2018 is 14,141,800 Acres.

posted by: Walt C on February 10, 2018  11:30am

If you love ducks, if you think hunting is wrong, if you feel this is unsafe, if you fear for your lives, if you feel this is NOT a good use of public property and that all Preserve Property and Land Trust property should promptly be posted with “No Hunting” signs…..Then Stand up…...AND RECUSE YOURSELF from voting or commenting because of a possible conflict of interest or lack of impartiality.

Shame on all hunters….if the pressure of a few local residents takes away the legal pursuit of duck hunting within the rules of hunting established by the State of CT.

The excuses given as reason to ban hunting to not hold water and are selfishly motivated.

posted by: robn on February 10, 2018  7:03pm

WALTC,

You don’t understand the meaning of the term conflict of interest. People who are interested in there being no shotgun fire near there homes and parklands aren’t in conflict of anything except a hunters desire to be there.
What’s it going to take for more prudent limits? A canoer or hiker getting shot?

posted by: Kevin McCarthy on February 10, 2018  11:09pm

Robn, to follow up on 1644’s responses, municipalities are “creatures of the state” and the state defines their powers. If there is a conflict between state and local law, state law governs.

posted by: Walt C on February 11, 2018  10:14am

You didn’t buy the whole River. It’s not your backyard. You bought a condo next to marsh with duck hunting already allowed.

To say a hiker will get shot by a duck hunter only confirms that you know nothing about duck hunting.

It was never about safety. You just don’t like the noise. Admit it.

But you can’t. Because you know that’s not enough to get the practice banned so you go with “fear for your life” and “emotional trauma” instead.

posted by: indian lake on February 11, 2018  1:46pm

truthfully this is classic, “move in next to the airport , then complain about the airport being too loud and not appropriate for the neighbiorhood”. the river has been a source of activity for the fisherman and hunter since before the state was even formed… to constantly allow houses and condos to built right to the edge of this natural beauty is a disgrace, then to have the occupants complain about the activities that go on their is even worse. Its also pathetic the terms and lies the complaintants use.. like the shots are within feet of their homes… what does he truly mean…5000 feet? Its time to put an end to the assault on sportsmen…this should be a rallying cry to all those who enjoy CT’s natural beauty, lets stop these people from taking our rights away.

Robert Johnson

posted by: BevHills730 on February 11, 2018  11:54pm

Hunters keep open spaces open.  They keep wildlife areas preserved.  When the state is cutting its budget to the bone, the last thing we need are condo owners, the New Haven Land Trust, and folks like Ms. Shansky threatening some of the last remaining sources of revenue for Connecticut wilderness for a handful of condo owners.  If you’re a hiker who feels threatened educate yourself about hunting safety.  If you are a person who bought a condo in a duck hunting area, buy some earplugs for the few morning moments you might be disturbed.

posted by: Elmer Shady on February 12, 2018  4:15am

Wabbit Season!

posted by: 1644 on February 12, 2018  8:41am

Wow, BevHills and I agree!  Yes, waterfowl hunters not only donate voluntarily to organizations like Ducks Unlimited, but must buy state and federal stamps which fund wetland preservation and acquisition.  The Stewart B McKinney Wildlife Refuge was largely funded by hunting stamp proceeds.

posted by: indian lake on February 12, 2018  9:49am

this is for all the nature lovers and hikers the condo owners are trying to gather behind them…..you would be wise to not kill the goose that lays the golden egg… the condo owners are not providing you with hundreds of acres of open space…. they fund ZERO…. many if not most of the places you truely enjoy have been set aside with hunters mainly in mind.. and if you are a veteran hiker and nature lover you know how to co-exist with other sportsmen, in the small window of time they also use this resource.. The rest of the year this land is truely yours alone… isnt that nice?  Do you really love to turn the corner and see hundreds of 3 story clustered condos stacked like cordwood on the shoreline? where you used to see an Osprey nest! urban sprawl and the extinction of our natural habitat is at stake here… we have to check one to save the other….hunters are your ally…. think of all the NEW activities that are degrading society…hunting is NOT one of them, its a way of life its a tradition its an overly proven safe activity across our great land…all those who “fear” hunters and their guns are truely hypocrites when they daily send their kids away in cars and buses, and bikes and saketboards on the city streets, just about every child activity is more dangerous that a hunter in the woods to that child. This is just a selfish AGENDA by the very people who are ruining the natural beauty of the river!

posted by: robn on February 12, 2018  10:04am

ZACK,

I don’t really understand the details of shotgun ballistics but maybe you can clarify because this NRA document inked below seems to suggest shotgun shot can travel 500 feet if one is shooting in the air. Am I reading this wrong? 500 ft is about 1/3 of the way across Bishop Woods.

https://rangeservices.nra.org/media/4074/shotshell-ballistics.pdf

posted by: indian lake on February 12, 2018  10:51am

to Robyn: does it really matter how far the pellets travel? the person shooting the firearm needs to be held responsible for his actions, but no more so than all the condo owners driving on the roads. you are responsible to NOT run the stop sign… the state give you that freedom and assumes you wont…same goes for the hunter…he can pull a loaded gun out of his car and shoot someone in the parking lot. The activity of hunting fits just like all the activities that condo owners enjoy that can be deemed unsafe if they dont follow the rules. And it is a fact that more laws are broken by drivers, than hunters.  the police man carries a gun…. that gun is just as dangerous as the hunters. but you trust they will control it, or they will be held accountable. Hunters are the same way. EVERYONE is the same way. you have your freedoms until you ruin that right ON YOUR OWN.. when a condo owner runs the stop sign at the end of the road and kills someone , the rest of the people in the condo complex are not held accountable.

posted by: Newhavener83 on February 12, 2018  11:09am

I live directly across the river- probably closer than anyone else to the goose hunters. 
But I don’t have the same concerns as my friends and neighbors across the river. I am familiar with hunting and what is safe and what is not and feel perfectly safe problem kayaking in the river with the hunter’s there. .
Safety is a non-issue – if it was dangerous CT DEEP would not allow it, they are extremely conservative and extremely strict on safety issues and regulations. I have seen DEEP agents watching the goose hunters with binoculars to ensure that the hunters are fully compliant with the law. In one case the hunters got a summons for standing 2 feet above the high water line on the Land trust property! The agent told me that if he observed the hunters shooting towards the condos or in an unsafe manner he might arrest them and confiscate their equipment including their vehicle.
Hunting with fire arms is safer than golf, the only safer recreational activities are camping and billiards. 
Hunters as a minority group are some of the most careful and responsible people out there – Everything about them is fully documented and they are held to be fully accountable for their actions - they have a lot to lose.
All Hunters must successfully complete a firearms training course, have a criminal history background check and must not have a history of psychiatric disability. A State and Federal fingerprint card and background check is required. In addition, to buy ammo, an ammunition certificate is also required, which involves another national criminal history records check and to appear in person to have their photograph taken.
This is public open space and should be shared by ALL including minority groups such as like Goose hunters. We would all greatly benefit from accepting DEEP’s offer to meet and to educate non hunting folks about hunting safety. Then we can have another better informed conversation.
With much respect to my friends and neighbors across the river.