Welcome to SafeBackYards


The following editorial illustrates what SafebackYards.com said would happen:


Week of December 3 - 10, 2010

Editorial & Commentary

Bow-hunting Safety Zone Reduction Endangers All Our Families
By Deborah Dutcher and Donovan Mannato

Before dawn on November 6th, a hunter shot a deer with a bow and arrow from a tree-stand in our neighbor's yard, a few feet from our property line. The wounded animal ended up 30 feet from our back door, where it bled to death. Before we awoke, the carcass was dragged to our neighbor's property.

The first indication we had of this incident was when we discovered massive pools of blood, which seemed to have been hurriedly covered with leaves, during the assembly of a rented bouncy castle an hour before 50 guests arrived for our son's 5th birthday party. Minutes later, we found a bloody, razor-sharp, multi-bladed arrow on the ground - right where we would later have two dozen 3- to 7-year-olds sack-racing and then an impromptu game of tackle football.

We shudder to think of the tragedy that might have befallen one of our guests had we not happened to find that arrow. The deer blood also presented a hazard, creating a slippery mess that could have sent one of our friends tumbling into ooze that is a known host for human diseases. We called the police and found out, to our dismay that our neighbor was well within his legal rights in allowing somebody to hunt on his property in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The only thing about this incident that appears to have violated the law was the retrieval of the deer from just beyond our back porch without seeking and receiving our permission, presuming, the deer, as he later told police, was on his yard when it was shot.

That's because New Jersey's Legislature this year passed, and the governor signed, a bill reducing the no-bow-hunting safety zone around occupied buildings from 450 feet (a football field and a half) to 150 feet. Current laws do not require hunters to retrieve arrows, so even if we had been asked and granted permission to retrieve the deer, it would have been up to us to first deduce that the deadly spear might have ended up on our property and then to go find it. Nor are hunters explicitly required to clean up bloody messes left on neighbors' property.

Though trespassing to retrieve a deer can be punished by a $200 fine, this incident might only result in a warning. Why? Because we didn't have the foresight to put "No Hunting" signs in our backyard - even though we had previously declined to grant our neighbor permission to hunt on our property. So says the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife, which is investigating this incident. Something is seriously wrong here: In Rumson, as in most towns, if a neighbor wants to build something on their property that falls just outside what's permissible under zoning laws, neighbors are notified so they can voice their objections to the request for a variance. Many of us recently received just such a notification from the town and, as far as we know, nobody objected.

Yet hunters can fire deadly weapons within 151 feet of our homes, send crazed and wounded animals onto our properties to leave behind pools of blood and state-of-the-art, designed-to-kill projectiles hidden amid the fallen leaves - all without notification. If we have a right to know that somebody is building something as harmless as a swing-set closer than five feet from our property lines, then surely we should have a right to know if somebody is going to be perched in a tree next door with a cocked and loaded bow and arrow.

We have no objection to hunting in general and are certain most hunters aren't careless, reckless or foolish. Our complaint is with this new law and the irresponsible behavior it invites. We plan to work to publicize the dangers it presents and have asked our state lawmakers to either repeal it or, at the very least, strengthen it to require hunters to behave responsibly (by making diligent efforts to find stray arrows, for example) and stiffer penalties for those who don't. We have also asked our Borough Council to consider passing a local ordinance to address the risks created by this law. We understand the dangers that deer present to the driver of a car and others. Let's just be sure we do not trade one set of dangers for another.

Sadly, there is little that can be done to address some of the law's unintended consequences. Ever since his birthday party, our son has repeatedly asked us a heartbreakingly childish question: "Is the killer coming back?"

Deborah Dutcher and Donovan Mannato live in Rumson.


July 14, 2010: Star Ledger writes Editorial against perimeter bill:

Bill would allow bowhunting too close to homes for comfort
Star-Ledger Editorial Board, 07/14/2010 5:41 AM
P-f-f-t. Thwang!

Know what that is? It's the sound of a razor-sharp, made-to-kill arrow as it zips across your lawn, maybe past your kid's head as he plays with the dog, and sticks into your back door.

Something to think about if you live next to legal hunting grounds in New Jersey, because the Legislature has approved a bill that shrinks the buffer between bowhunters and homes from 450 feet to 150 feet.

Even if William Tell and Robin Hood are the hunters, it's a needless gamble with public safety. A good  bowhunter can kill from 50 yards, so an errant shot could go past the buffer.

"The idea that somebody could be 150 feet from a house, shooting an arrow into a deer, is pretty disturbing to people in my district," state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex) said. Even more disturbing: The hunter could miss.

Assemblyman Gary Chiusano (R-Sussex), the sponsor of the bill, says the state needs to keep deer "in check." The buffer must be shrunk drastically because deer are smart enough to flee from hunters and move close to homes and buildings where the law now protects them.

Makes you wonder which are smarter, deer or legislators.

At least there's some sanity to the bill: The safety zone around schools and playgrounds - and for hunters using shotguns - will remain 450 feet.

Anthony Mauro, chairman of the New Jersey Outdoor Alliance, believes anyone with concerns is an alarmist.

"Am I concerned?" Mauro said. "No. What you're depending on is people to use their common sense and judgment."

We're hoping Gov. Chris Christie uses his judgment and shoots down this bill.