November 16, 2011 | 07:35 AMFONTANA — In the village, for three hours each morning and evening, hunters patiently wait in tree stands for deer to cross their paths.
The hunters are armed with bows — no firearms — on parcels the property owners and the Village Board approved for the outdoor sport.
For the hunters, the hope is to take home a prize buck. In turn, the village wants to thin its deer population and reduce the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
During the Nov. 7 Village Board meeting, bow hunting in the village came under fire after one hunter asked to have another parcel approved for the sport.
At the same meeting, the board denied another person permission to hunt on village property.
Village President Arvid "Pete" Petersen said allowing hunting in the village is becoming more trouble than it's worth, and the board is spending too much time discussing the issue, which has come up three times in recent months.
Historically, the rule has been hunting isn't allowed in the village, but an exception was made in response to the spread of CWD, Petersen said.
Petersen said residents have voiced concerns to him about allowing hunting within village limits.
Britt Isham, who helped bring bow hunting back to the village, said he believes the hunting allowed is safe.
Isham said the areas approved for hunting aren't surrounded by residences, and the people approved to hunt are safe, ethical hunters.
"We wouldn't put a wildcat out that shoots at everything that moves," Isham said.
Isham said the village "absolutely should not have a gun hunt."
Most of the time, the hunters are sitting in a tree stand and firing straight down, which reduces the risk of a wayward arrow, he said.
One of the properties where hunting is allowed, no one hunts because it was deemed it was too close to a residence, Isham said.
In total, 10 sites have been approved for hunting. Hunting is also allowed on village-owned lots including the DPW Compost Site, sites near Wells No. 1 and No. 3 and lots near Highway B.
With the exception of resident Wes Milner, only village employees have been approved for those locations.
As more people approach the village seeking permission to hunt, Isham said the board can simply deny their request and look at it again next year.
This year, Isham said hunters have had some success killing deer, and he has personally killed two of them.
If a hunter shoots and injures a deer, but doesn't kill it, the hunter is obligated to contact the Fontana Police Department to assist in tracking down and killing the animal.
Fontana Police Chief Steve Olson believes this has only happened once, a couple of years ago.
Thinning the herd
Petersen believes the deer population is too large in the village and, about once a week, he will see eight to 10 deer in his backyard eating shrubs.
Part of the problem, Petersen believes, is that residents feed the deer, which is prohibited in Walworth County by the Department of Natural Resources.
Trustee Cynthia Wilson said the deer population in the village needs to be brought to better balance.
Trustee Thomas McGreevy, who said he isn't a hunter, said the board has acted responsibly in respecting the wishes of neighbors.
During the November Village Board meeting, the board denied a request to allow hunting on one parcel after a neighbor raised objections.
"The parcel was a little too close to a private residence with little children," McGreevy said. "The other parcels we have are pretty well away from where children are around."
Wilson said she is "hoping the decision to allow this won't backfire."
After the season ends, Wilson said she would like to re-evaluate it.
"As responsible as the hunters might be, I have a minor concern that there might be too many of them," she said.
That is a concern Isham understands. He agrees the village needs to be careful and not approve too many hunters or parcels.
Wilson said residents who have talked to her about the hunting ordinance have expressed concerns, but more people were surprised to learn that bow hunting even existed in the village.
"We live in the country, when you live in the country you have to expect things like this," she said. "we don't live in a Chicago suburb. We live in an area where there is hunting, we need to learn to adapt to that."