A primary reason for deer hunting at Trustees properties is to reduce and control the deer population and thereby improve the overall habitat health of our properties and surrounding areas. With few natural predators in the region, and an urban environment that mimics preferred habitat for deer, the deer population is well beyond its natural level, particularly in eastern Massachusetts. Research has demonstrated that at high abundance, deer browsing of vegetation can prevent forest regrowth, reduce habitat resiliency and species diversity, and eliminate certain plant and rare species, and causes damage to agricultural crops, gardens and landscaping.
The Trustees has long been a statewide leader in safely implementing controlled hunting programs for more than 21 years on many Trustees properties. The program was carefully designed to ensure safety and The Trustees’ decision to allow or prohibit hunting is evaluated on a property-by-property basis, guided by state laws and The Trustees’ Hunting Policy which addresses a variety of factors, including: public safety; wishes of the property donor; resource protection; human and deer health; visitor experience; and local regulations.
Based on recent spotlight surveys, vegetation surveys, regular observations by staff and complaints from adjacent property owners, we know the deer population at World’s End has grown significantly in recent years. The management plan for World’s End completed in 2002 states: “Even deer, which typically do well in suburban environments, appear to be rare with no resident population” Fifteen years later, surveys conducted by The Trustees’ ecology and property staff indicate the deer population is well in excess of the desired density goals set by both the Massachusetts Division of Fish and Wildlife and The Trustees. Deer densities in excess of 12-18 per square mile degrade habitat and wildlife sustainability. Recent surveys conducted by the Trustees have documented between 16-40 deer at World’s End Reservation in Hingham, well above the desired density. Even using the lowest survey numbers (16 deer), the current population is double the property’s target density.
In 2022, The Trustees continued to monitor deer populations and deer impacts. For a fourth year in a row vegetation monitoring indicated that deer impacts to vegetation were high. However, for some plants that deer prefer to eat, we are seeing a trend indicating growth, indicating that the hunting program is improving the health of the ecosystem. The Trustees’ goal is to prevent damage to ecological resources caused by deer overabundance through an annual controlled hunt, which was first conducted in 2020 and this effort will be continued in 2022.
The Trustees recognizes that a proactive and ongoing relationship with our surrounding community is important for a deer management plan. The Trustees will continue to seek advice and council from key stakeholders such as the local police chief, the conservation agent, neighbors, property committee members, MassWildlife, and the general public prior to conducting a deer management program. We feel this represents best management practices and responsible stewardship of World’s End.
What is the Trustees policy on hunting?
The Trustees is a private, non-profit 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to preserve for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts. As part of our mission to preserve places for public use and enjoyment, Trustees properties are open to the public for many visitor activities. As a landowner and conservation organization, The Trustees have recognized the value of hunting as an effective way to steward our natural resources and ecosystems, landscaping and gardens, and agricultural crops as well as an active recreational activity. This policy guides the designation of hunting access based on our mission values by considering safety, recreational and visitor experience, and resource protection in compliance with local, state, and federal regulations. Hunting access is allowed on certain properties, some with specific Trustees’ restrictions.
What are the reasons for hunting on Trustees properties?
One of the primary reasons for hunting at Trustees properties is to help reduce and control the deer population and improve the overall habitat health of our properties and surrounding areas. Hunting has proven over time to be an effective way to manage abundant deer populations and resilient ecosystems, especially where natural functions such as predation have been disrupted. This is especially the case with white-tailed deer populations. Abundant white-tailed deer populations can reduce plant biodiversity and the health of ecosystems. Research has demonstrated that at high abundance (>20 deer per square mile), deer browsing of vegetation can prevent forest regrowth, reduce habitat resiliency and species diversity, and eliminate certain plant and rare species, and causes damage to agricultural crops, gardens and landscaping.
What is a controlled hunt?
As opposed to an open season hunt on permissible land, a controlled hunt is one that limits the number of hunters allowed, the numbers of days when hunting can occur, and sets additional rules and regulations other than state hunting regulations. These hunts take place during the regular hunting seasons and typically occur to manage wildlife populations, and the type and quantity of game animal that can be harvested is restricted. These hunts generally occur on land where land managers have identified parameters that present a need to regulate how hunting occurs. Controlled hunts are implemented by The Trustees to manage wildlife populations (specifically deer) for resource protection. We vet each hunter – requiring that each hunter passes a shooting proficiency test, signs a written permission form and provides contact information and hunting licenses. We limit the number of hunters who have permission on a property, the game that can be harvested, and require hunters to follow additional rules and regulations, such as where, when and how they can hunt. Hunters are required to remain in consistent communication throughout the season and those that participate safely and responsibly are given permission the following year. Those that do not, are removed from the program.
How do I know if a Trustees property is open to hunting?
Of our 123 properties, 35 properties are open to hunting and 36 properties are open to controlled deer hunting by permission only, primarily conducted with bow and arrow. To find out if a specific property is open to hunting, please visit the website at www.thetrustees.org and search for a particular reservation. Details about hunting regulations are on each reservation’s devoted page.
Why hunt at World’s End?
Desired density goals for White Tail deer are 12-18 per square mile as set by the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and are used as a guideline for the Trustees for managing deer. Recent surveys conducted by the Trustees have documented up to 60 deer at World’s End Reservation in Hingham. World’s End measures less than ½ square mile. Even using the lowest survey numbers, the current population is double the property’s target density. Given the ecological, scenic and recreational significance of World’s End, The Trustees goal is to prevent damage to ecological resources caused by deer overabundance through an annual controlled hunt which was first conducted in 2020.
In 2022, The Trustees continued to monitor the deer population and deer impacts. For a fourth year in a row vegetation monitoring indicated that deer impacts to vegetation were high. However, for some plants that deer prefer to eat, we are beginning to see a trend where the plants can put on positive growth, indicating that the hunting program is improving the health of the ecosystem.
How are the Trustees proposing to control deer at World’s End?
The Trustees plan to close World’s End for two weekdays during shotgun hunting season (November 30th and December 7th ) to implement a controlled shotgun hunt. Due to World’s End’s separation from the mainland, shotgun hunting can be implemented safely since entry points can be closed to the public and the majority of the property falls outside of state safety setbacks (150 feet from a roadway and 500 feet from a dwelling).
What measures are the Trustees taking to ensure safety during the hunt at World’s End?
Public safety is our primary goal when considering hunting on a Trustees property. The Trustees manage public safety where hunting occurs through a variety of approaches, including the following for a hunt at World’s End:
- World’s End will be closed to the public for two specific days of hunting.
- Trustees staff will be stationed at entrances to prevent public access and to answer questions.
- Unlike on public lands, The Trustees can control who hunts our properties. Twelve Hunters who participated in 2021 will receive permission again in 2022.
- Up to 12 hunters will have permission on each of the two chosen days. The shotgun hunt will occur during the firearms hunting season in 2022 (Nov 30th -Dec 7th).
- All hunters must have passed a shotgun proficiency test. To prove their ability, they will have to cluster a group of shots within a 9-inch circular target from 50 yards. Proficiency testing will take place in a safe environment at a shooting facility.
- All hunters must follow state hunting regulations including having a valid state hunting license. Hunting will only take place in designated zones that meet or exceed set back regulations from roadways and homes. Hunters are required to follow state hunter orange requirements (at least 500 sq/in) and will not be permitted to make shots that increase the risk of munition travelling over or into water.
- Hunters will have to provide identification, hunting license information, and sign liability waivers.
- New hunters will be oriented to the property prior to hunting.
- The Trustees will assign hunters to designated zones and limit areas where hunting can occur.
- Hunting hours begin 30 minutes before sunrise and end 30 minutes after sunset. Hunters will arrive at worlds end 45 mins prior to ½ before sunrise to check in. Hunters will then have to check back in at the end of the hunt.
- The Trustees will deploy hunters at each drumlin (Island).
- Neighbors will be notified of the times and dates to ensure they know when gunshots may be heard.
Did you consider specific hunting regulations in Hingham?
Yes, The Trustees have consulted with the Police Department, Conservation Department and have notified the Select Board members of our plans to conduct the hunt. We are operating within the town’s bylaws and ordinances.
Have the Trustees communicated with town residents?
Yes, The Trustees have been in communication with community residents in the vicinity of Worlds End.
Where can I learn more about hunting in Massachusetts?
Visit the state’s website to learn more about hunting.