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Deer Hunting On County Golf Courses Nixed; Other Options Available

Township Manager Robert Vornlocker uses a map of Colonial Park to show the Open Space Advisory Committee where hunting may be allowed on Somerset County property.


Deer hunting on Somerset County owned golf courses in the township is “not practical” and the idea won’t be pursued, the Open Space Advisory Committee was told at its May 15 meeting.

But, the committee was told, the county is open to discussing other options for deer hunting on county owned land in the township.

The committee at its April 17 meeting endorsed the idea of the township approaching county officials for permission to hunt deer on at least Quail Brook Golf Course, which closes for the winter. Spooky Brook Golf Course, also located in Franklin, does not close.

But a meeting since then among Township Manager Robert Vornlocker, township open space consultant Tara Kenyon and county park officials led to the conclusion that the golf course’s layout is not conducive to hunting.

“It’s really not practical to hunt that property,” Vornlocker said. “If we were to look at that property as being hunted by hunters and not professionals, it really isn’t practical to consider a hunting program on Quail Brook Golf Course, the limits are just too tight and really, more importantly, the areas that are open to hunting are really not practical to hunt. It’s the fairways, it’s not any wooded area of the golf course.”

The limits to which Vornlocker referred are the state-mandated buffers between homes and allowable shotgun and bow-hunting areas.

“So while they didn’t dismiss it out-of-hand, and while they didn’t say they wouldn’t consider professional hunters, what they said was that it really wasn’t practical,” Vornlocker said.

Vornlocker said one of the concerns the county officials had was that even though Quail Brook Golf Course closes from November until April, people still sneak on it in the off-season on nice days.

“So if you get nice weather in December or January, even though the golf course is closed, it’s not uncommon to find people out on the golf course,” he said. “So given that fact, they said let’s try to come up with some other ideas.”

As far as Spooky Brook Golf Course is concerned, he said, allowing hunting there would entail closing the park down and bringing in professional hunters.

“Again, what the county position is, while that’s not impossible, if there were some other alternatives, that they would rather explore other alternatives,” he said.

One of those alternatives involves a wooded area on the park’s extremity, away from places where people would gather, he said.

The area is “fairly thick, it’s an area that has a pretty significant deer population because they’re left pretty much unmolested, and the county said that they would be agreeable to exploring allowing that area to be hunted,” Vornlocker said. “One of the things we talked about was the possibility of developing a group of hunters from among our registered hunters that would be used exclusively on this piece of property. It would be regulated as far as times they could get into the property.”

“It wouldn’t be open for an entire bow hunting season, but we could probably get hunters into that area of county owned property and work that,” he said.

Another idea, Vornlocker said, is to get Rutgers University to agree to allow hunting on a stretch of township-owned land it leases as a buffer to the Hutcheson Memorial Forest Center on Amwell Road.

“That that might be a good start in expanding the attempt to control the deer herd in the northern part of the town,” he said.

Vornlocker said there’s also the potential to hunt on some land owned by the Cedar Hill Swim Club, on Cedar Grove Lane, which borders township land.

“The county seemed genuinely interested in trying to help us with our problem, recognizing that our problem is also their problem,” Vornlocker said, noting that deer damage vegetation in Colonial Park and the golf courses.

The talk with the county officials “was the first in what I’m sure will be several,” he said. “This is not precedent-setting, this is just let’s look at the northern end of Franklin Township and see what we can do to manage the deer herd.”

 

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