My Turn: Hunting bylaw is poorly thought out, a legal concern


Friday, January 19, 2018

As a resident of Leyden I’d like to summarize some points I made and statements I heard at the special town meeting regarding the “Citizens’ Safety Petition.” It was a good discussion with opinions on both sides. As one resident said, we need to respect the rights of both sides and listen to their concerns. I couldn’t agree more. Let’s not forget landowners have the right to decide what they want to do with their land if respect and understanding aren’t achieved.

We were asked to consider adopting a bylaw similar to Blandford, or Tolland, Conn., or Rhode Island that says, “no person shall fire or discharge any firearm or weapon of any kind within the limits of any park, playground or other public property of the town, except with the consent of the Board of Selectmen, or other town governmental body with jurisdiction over such property. Nor shall any person fire or discharge any firearm, or weapon of any kind on any private property, except with the written consent, to be in the person’s possession, of the owner or legal occupant thereof.”

It’s my opinion that my land really isn’t MY land. The land I live on was here long before me and will be here long after as well. I feel the only real right I have is the right to pay taxes on it. I consider land wide and open and accessible to all. I enjoy seeing someone access my land to hunt; in turn I appreciate being able to enjoy theirs. That’s not to say I don’t respect someone’s private property and their desire to keep it as such. We as Massachusetts residents have rights to protect our land and keep anyone we wish off. It is our right to exclude hunting or shooting for that matter. The way we exercise this right is to POST our land. This eliminates the right for anyone to access your property for the purpose of hunting and therefore discharging a weapon. The penalties are far more severe than what is being proposed in the bylaw.

I posed this question at the meeting. If an animal during a hunt is wounded and travels across many properties before an attempt is finally made to harvest that animal and written permission is not had where that animal is, what is one to do? Two different residents for the bylaw said in that case it’s “OK” to do the humane thing. While I agree, I argue the bylaw clearly does not. If that animal travels to property without written permission and I discharge my weapon, then a crime has occurred, and this opens me up to legal scrutiny. This reason alone makes this bylaw poorly thought out and a legal concern.

I heard from another resident that we have plenty of state land to hunt in Leyden and that should be enough. I tend to disagree. This could end up concentrating one area with too many people. We also heard from our long-time MassWildlife representative who spoke for himself and on behalf of the Massachusetts Wildlife Department, saying this proposed bylaw is a very bad idea. He showed evidence of three communities just south of us including Easthampton, that have adopted something very similar to this and all are seeing devastating effects. He warned these laws do deter hunting. As a result, deer populations are way up including tick populations and other issues involving deer, such as car accidents. He said Leyden adopting such a policy would greatly increase deer populations.

Man does a very good job keeping the deer herd in check. We also met a Mass. environmental police officer who warned the vast majority of the policing and handling of complaints will fall on the Leyden police.

Two of our selectmen went on to suggest this could lead to increasing our police budget. And the question is, for what? It would be irresponsible to pass a bylaw that could increase taxes without first studying and alerting the residents to what amount.

I heard people that night associating hunters with beer cans littering the woods. I about fell off my chair. I’ve hunted many years with many, many different people and I never saw a time nor can imagine a hunter walking through the woods drinking a can of beer and tossing it to the ground.

This is just another layer of unnecessary rules. Our own Chief Dan Galvis was recently quoted in the Greenfield Recorder as saying, “If we can enforce the laws that are on the books, we don’t need any more.”

Please come out on Jan 22 and vote “no” to the bylaw.

David Curtis lives on Greenfield Road in Leyden.