No Hunting Warden In Chatham This Season

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Recreation

These duck hunters took a swim in the cold waters of Pleasant Bay last winter but were rescued by members of the town's harbormaster department. FILE PHOTO

New Signs Will Warn Hunters, Beach Walkers Of Each Other's Presence

CHATHAM – The town won't have a warden for the upcoming waterfowl hunting season, but will put up signs warning both hunters and beach walkers of each other's presence on area beaches.

But that doesn't mean that the idea of a seasonal position to oversee hunting activities in the fall and early winter is dead. While there's no money in the current budget to fund a position, officials are talking about incorporating it into next year's spending plan during ongoing budget discussions, said Health and Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson.

“There just isn't enough time really to get it going right now,” he said at the Nov. 14 park and recreation commission meeting.

Duck hunting season in Massachusetts coastal areas was open from Oct. 15 to 22, and will open again Dec. 1 to Jan. 31.

Last year there were several run-ins between duck hunters and beach walkers that raised safety concerns among residents and town officials. Conflicts have been growing in recent years as duck hunting becomes more popular in Chatham; a quick internet search reveals more than half dozen guides and companies advertising sea duck hunting along the shores and on the waters.

Since most of the conflicts occurred on or near town beaches, the park and recreation commission raised the idea of having a hunting warden available to remind both hunters and beachgoers of regulations that govern when and where hunting can take place.

Discussions included melding the position with that of a part-time shellfish warden, since duck hunting is only an issue for a few months out of the year. Several Cape towns have hunting wardens who also serve as harbormasters, conservation agents or other natural resources-based position, Duncanson said. In Chatham, “people are more specialized,” he said.

With no hunting warden this season, the town will instead put up large signs at beaches where hunting is prevalent. The signs will be mostly educational in nature, Duncanson said, advising beach users of the dates of hunting season and that they are in an area where hunting is allowed, “putting them on notice that they need to use proper caution,” he said.

The signs will also warn hunters that there are beach walkers in the area and to be respectful and use caution and watch for walkers, shellfishermen and bathers. “There are still people who go into the water this time of year,” Duncanson commented.

The signs will also instruct hunters to pick up after themselves and remind them of beach regulations prohibiting littering. They will also highlight state migratory bird gaming regulations governing hunting hours (a half hour before sunrise to sunset) and a prohibition against using boat to drive birds toward hunters.

“That seemed to be the thing that we had talked about here as being of concern,” Duncanson said.

Duncanson planned to place the signs at Forest Beach, Harding's Beach. Commission members suggested that Ridgevale Beach and Crescent Beach be added to the list. Commission member Kimberly Robbins also suggested that the signs include a QR code linking to the state regulations. Commission members also asked that the signs be bright orange so that they can be seen clearly.

The commission approved the suggested wording on the signs. Duncanson said the signs will be put up as soon as possible, and will remain up through the hunting season.