At midnight tomorrow, Friday, the town's deer management program will come to an end. But already, coming out of what proponents are saying was a successful hunting season, talk of a similar program for 2011 is already starting to build momentum.
"We had some very good local hunters involved, and everybody was very interested in making the program a success," Bob Douglas, director of Conservation, said. "I will have a meeting with the hunters sometime in January to discuss how all of it went, and to ask them if they would consider doing another hunt next year."
Overall, 24 hunters took part this year. Official numbers on how many deer were taken in the program are not yet available, but state wildlife officials will likely have data available next month.
According to Bob Dalton, an Andover firefighter and organizer of the program, at least 10 deer were taken over the last two months.
With state biologists saying that the number of deer in town is at a destructive level — as many as 30 deer per square mile when there should be around 8 — and town health experts concerned about a spike in Lyme disease cases, which are linked to deer overpopulation, both Douglas and Dalton said that an earlier start to the season could've made the program more effective.
"We didn't start the season when the rest of the state's season started," Douglas said. "If we had started earlier, we could have had a larger take of dear."
Similarly, Dalton said that hunters typically "scout" out possible hunting locations, a process that had several prospective hunters already finding spots to hunt before the program was even officially announced.
Throughout the program, both Dalton and Douglas said there were no negative hunter and non-hunter interactions.
And lessons were learned. For instance, program-approved hunters were better prepared for combating and identifying illegal hunting.
Should the town consider making the program permanent, Andover-based hunters will have much more time to select hunting locations, which will bring more locals into the program and further impact the overpopulation problem, Dalton said.
As discussion continues into 2011, proponents of the hunt and officials will discuss changes that could make the program more effective.
For Dalton, these changes could include allowing more hunters to participate, and allowing hunters to take down more deer.
For Douglas, changes could also include allowing hunters to use more than two tree stands, and opening up other currently hunting-free conservation land.
But at its core, there is one thing that will remain consistent in the program: allowing hunters to pursue their hobby on, as well as protect and improve the safety of, town-owned conservation land.
"A lot of the hunters volunteered their time to put up no-hunting signs, we got a lot of illegal hunting stands taken down... It went really well," Dalton said. "The success of the program this year was getting the people who are hunting illegally out of the woods. And while doing that, we harvested some deer. It was a huge success."