Deer hunting about to open: Details on when and where in Southborough (Updated – again)

by beth on October 1, 2020

Post image for Deer hunting about to open: Details on when and where in Southborough (Updated – again)

Above: With a warning from DCR that they are bringing back deer hunting to much of its property around the Sudbury Reservoir, I’m reminder hikers to take caution. (images cropped from pics posted to flickr L-R by Savannah River Site and Steven Jay Photography)

Last year, I shared news on DCR opening some of its grounds to deer hunting. This year’s season is about to open, and there’s a special day for it this weekend. So, it’s a good time to alert readers on the situation in town.

Hunting isn’t allowed on Town owned open spaces and trails. But it is allowed in some of the parcels around the Sudbury Reservoir in Town owned by the state’s Dept of Conservation and Recreation.

It’s allowed on private property with the owners’ written permission. For instance, Southborough Open Land Foundation does allow some selective bow hunting on certain areas of Beals Preserve. The hunting is meant to be in areas away from the trails. But to be safe, they always post warning signs to for visitors to wear bright colors during hunting season.

I’d say that whatever trails you pursue, bright clothing in the fall is probably a good idea.

This Saturday, October 3rd, is a special one day Youth Deer Hunt day. The event follows the “shotgun season” rules, but is open only to licensed minors accompanied by adults. (Click here for more details.)

There’s no hunting this Sunday, but Monday, October 5th is the kickoff to archery season for most of Southborough. More parcels open on the 19th.

The image below right shows the DCR parcels in town that will be open to hunting in solid green. (Sections that are red or where green is covered in black crosshatches are off limits for hunting.).  It also marks the boundary between zone 9 and 10.

The season dates for 2020 are as follows:

DWSP Deer Hunter Field Map

(click to enlarge)

Archery Season (Zones 10 – 14): Oct. 5 – Nov. 28
Archery Season (Zones 1 – 9): Oct. 19 – Nov. 28
Shotgun Season: Nov. 30 – Dec. 12 (also allows archery and primitive firearms)
Primitive Firearms Season: Dec. 14 – Dec. 31 (allows archery and primitive firearms)

For the interactive map, click here.

Last year, some commenters asserted that the Town prohibits the uses of firearms in town. But that appeared to be a misconception. A search of the Town Code doesn’t bring up any restrictions on guns or weapons. (In 2013, I shared a warning from police when shotgun season opened. The message referenced calls they would get each year from residents concerned by hearing guns fired.)

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any restrictions. A state law prohibits discharging a firearm within 500 feet “of a dwelling or other building in use, except with the consent of the owner or legal occupant thereof”. (There are some exceptions to that rule, but hunting isn’t one of them.) The dwelling distance was used to determine the crosshatched areas on DCR’s map. 

For more details on DCR’s decision to open up hunting around the reservoir, you can read last year’s post.

[Editor’s Note: Thank you to DCR for alerting the Trails Committee about hunting on their land and the Trails Committee for sharing the news with me.]

Updated (10/1/20 5:43 pm): I had forgotten to include the link to the interactive map. You can find that here.

Updated (10/2/20 8:09 am): For anyone questioning the reasons behind allowing deer hunting, the Sudbury Valley Trustees posted:

Wildlife habitat in SVT’s service area is threatened by growing deer populations. SVT has identified deer management as a high-priority issue because of the high deer density in our region and the negative impact deer are having on our forests.

You can read more about why they support managing the deer population here.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 ZOOM! October 1, 2020 at 4:54 PM

Please post the URL (link) to the map – what we currently have is a jpeg file that cannot magnified. If we knew where the map was located, it is likely it supports zoom in/out functionality.



2 beth October 1, 2020 at 5:42 PM

I thought I had inserted the link. thank you for pointing out that it is missing.


3 beth October 1, 2020 at 5:45 PM
4 Southborough Open Land Foundation October 2, 2020 at 7:46 AM

Two permits have been issued this year to two very responsible individuals who have been allowed to hunt there every year for several decades. The number of deer in Massachusetts has continued to rise to the point of serious overpopulation. Hunting is considered good land management practice as reflected in this report issued by Sudbury Valley Trustees.


5 beth October 2, 2020 at 8:17 AM

To clarify, you are specifying who was given written permission to hunt on SOLF’s property during the season. Others will be allowed to hunt on DCR land with the right permits.


6 Southborough Open Land Foundation October 2, 2020 at 10:04 AM

Yes, SOLF has given written permission to the two hunters to hunt at Beals Preserve. SOLF of course has no jurisdiction over the DCR properties.


7 Tim Martel October 3, 2020 at 12:23 PM

Can you please expand a bit on how those two hunters will be operating in an area that has extensive walking trails that are heavily utilized by families?


8 beth October 5, 2020 at 8:44 AM

While you wait for a response. . . I don’t personally have those details, but I can say that this isn’t new for SOLF. I have been aware of their practice for many years.

9 Sara October 5, 2020 at 9:07 AM

I also would like to know how they determine that small piece of land has an overpopulation of deer.

10 Matt October 2, 2020 at 1:58 PM

Thanks for linking that document… some other interesting points…

“The majority of SVT properties will prohibit hunting.”

“1. Public Safety: Where visitation is high and/or concentrated, hunting will only be permitted if safety concerns can be mitigated through such means as allowing only certain types of hunting in restricted areas or temporary property closures.”

“3. Community Compatibility: Local community support of hunting as an important nature-based activity or accepted management activity. ”

“4. Management Partnership: Ability to establish or take advantage of land management partnerships that will increase the effectiveness of SVT’s implementation of a hunting program. For example, if the local town has already established some type of hunting program or one or more conservation abutters allows hunting. ”

By no means saying these aren’t all met in this case… I’d be interested in understanding how SOFL approaches the decision given this criteria. Thanks again!


11 beth October 5, 2020 at 8:46 AM

I believe you are confusing SVT and SOLF. A representative of SOLF was sharing SVT’s explanation about reasons for deer hunting. Neither SOLF’s properties or the DCR properties I refer to in the story are owned by SVT.


12 Matt October 5, 2020 at 9:15 AM

Thanks for clarifying. I did not make the distinction…

I guess I would be curious what their policy is when considering properties for this use. I think the SVT document does a good job at balancing typical use / community concerns when considering hunting as land management option. I am not opposed to hunting as wildlife management but have a hard time seeing how Beals would meet any reasonable criteria for safety. I am not well versed on it’s history and understand this appears to be long standing… but isn’t the art on trails and increased usage (especially during Covid) relatively recent?

I’ll look around and see if they have a similar document. But thanks again for clarifying.


13 northsider October 5, 2020 at 2:58 PM

Interesting that the map doesn’t show Beals Preserve as being open for hunting.


14 beth October 5, 2020 at 4:13 PM

The map is just of the DCR properties. Beals is owned by SOLF.

The post was meant to alert readers about two issues:

1. That DCR is repeating last year’s decision to allow hunting on their lands.
2. The hunting season dates with a reminder that it also extends to privately owned land where owners have given permission. I noted SOLF as an example.

SOLF posted comments on this post clarifying their policy on hunting on their land and sharing info from SVT about the need for deer hunting in the region. That appears to have led to confusion among commenters.


15 Matt Bailey October 6, 2020 at 2:01 PM

I know there is some confusion over properties / management… but as several commenters have asked (myself, tim, northsider and maybe sara) I think there is a desire to understand why 2 people have been given permission to hunt on a small heavily trafficked parcel (Beals).

I am ok with avoiding it during this period (or suit up in orange)… but it does seem a bit of an odd decision. Genuinely interested to know if someone who was involved doesn’t mind sharing.


16 beth October 7, 2020 at 9:59 AM

I can share that SOLF has been doing this at least as far back as 2012.

In past years, I was told that there were two hunters the board trusted, with permission to bow hunt far away from the trails. An earlier comment by someone representing SOLF shared a link that talks about the dangers of deer overpopulation as the reason for allowing it.


17 Whitney Beals October 9, 2020 at 10:21 AM

The reasons that SOLF allows hunting on the Beals preserve are explained well in the website. There is adequate room at the preserve to accommodate two bow hunters, who stay well away from established trails. I personally have seen a herd of seven does on the property, so the abundance of deer is evident. While those deer do not confine their movements to the preserve, they do travel through as they search for forage. As to concerns about safety, the permitted hunters are not allowed to release an arrow across an established trail. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a spotless bow-hunting record: no non-hunter has ever been injured by a bow hunter.
I also will note that studies have established that a reduction in deer densities results in a reduction of black-legged deer ticks, which can be the carriers of several serious diseases that can affect humans, including Lyme and anaplasmosis.


18 Matt October 9, 2020 at 8:16 PM

Thanks for taking time to respond! It’s a great spot and we always enjoy our time there.


19 northsider October 10, 2020 at 3:52 PM

That is great info, thank you Whitney!


20 Kathryn K October 12, 2020 at 10:33 AM

I have lived adjacent to the Beals preserve since 2005 and walk my dog on it (10 months out of the year anyway) almost daily. I have never heard of a hunting accident and never even seen the hunters. I have always assumed that the hunters are out mostly at dawn and dusk, so I avoid those times. The only issue I have personally seen: the hunting signs sometimes seem to get stolen/go missing. Perhaps there are kids who think they are fun wall art?? And yes, there are lots of deer around here–just last Tuesday, I had 2 deer (and later a coyote) stroll across my front yard mid-afternoon. Hunting them feels cruel (and I could not do it myself), but it is actually kinder to control the population than to let them starve.


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