The Conservation Comission has approved an expansion to the town's deer-hunting program, doubling the number of town-approved bow hunters allowed and opening hundreds of additional acres to bow hunting.
The expansion allows 80 hunters, up from 40 last year and 25 in the program's first year, to participate in deer hunting after completing a qualifying test, according to Conservation Director Bob Douglas.
The town also has picked up additional pieces of land for the program. The largest piece of land to be added is the Harold R. Rafton Reservation, a 226-acre AVIS reservation near High Plain Road. The commission also approved the use of Serio's Grove off Lowell Junction Road, and a town-owned stretch of land along the Merrimack River, Douglas said.
Because AVIS has a say in who is allowed to use its property and for what purposes, Douglas said opening up the Rafton Reservation was tricky.
"There's a lot of moving parts," said Douglas. "We wanted to be able to see if AVIS was comfortable opening up their land."
Ultimately, AVIS allowed the program to move forward on the Rafton Reservation under the same rules that exist elsewhere, according to Douglas.
Other areas already included in the hunt include the Wood Hill/Bald Hill Reservation, Fish Brook North, conservation land surrounding Foster's Pond, and Foster's Island at Pomps Pond.
Applications to participate in the program were due by June 1. Qualifiers to participate in the program will be held on Aug. 18 and Sept. 9 at the Andover Sportsman's Club, according to the town website. The program allows non-resident hunters, except at Serio's Grove, where only town residents are able to hunt, following a Conservation Commission vote on Tuesday night. The program will run from mid-October to the end of the calendar year.