Deer hunting can get folks\u2019 passions up, and supporters and opponents of the town\u2019s \u201ccontrolled hunt\u201d will get a chance to debate, declaim, argue, and shout at a public hearing in the fall. This year\u2019s deer hunt is expected to proceed, but the opinions expressed at the hearing could set the stage for a town meeting to call off or reaffirm support for deer hunting on town lands in the 2019 season. That was the consensus the selectmen reached April 18 after their second discussion of deer hunting in a month. \u201cWe are going to start off with a public hearing. It could it go to the town meeting, a call for a vote. But we want to get people\u2019s input first,\u201d First Selectman Rudy Marconi said Monday, April 23. The Board of Selectmen will decide after the hearing whether to call a town meeting. \u201cWe\u2019ll basically take it from there, depending on the input we receive,\u201d Marconi said. The discussion Wednesday night confirmed the selectmen\u2019s previously expressed sense that it might be time to let townspeople revisit the deer hunting issue that they last voted on in 2006. \u201cIt\u2019s been 12 years,\u201d said Selectman Steve Zemo. \u201cIf people want to continue the deer hunting, we\u2019ll continue the deer hunting,\u201d Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark said. The selectmen had received a report from the deer committee at their previous meeting, on April 4, proposing to have the town\u2019s \u201ccontrolled hunt\u201d on 15 town properties in the hunting season that starts next fall. The selectmen had sent the report on to the Conservation Commission, seeking a recommendation. Conservation Commission Chairman Jim Coyle told the selectmen he was trying to get the deer committee on the commission\u2019s May 9 agenda. Original vote The selectmen recalled the town meeting that had packed the Veterans Park auditorium in 2006 and approved deer hunting. \u201cIt was a huge turnout,\u201d said Selectwoman Barbara Manners. The vote 12 years ago had been 531 for hunting, 194 against. \u201cThere were four reasons,\u201d Marconi recalled. Townspeople voted to allow deer hunting because of concern about Lyme disease, car accidents involving deer, the cost to homeowners of replacing landscaping materials eaten by deer, and damage to the \u201cunderstory\u201d in woodlands and open spaces. Kozlark said that since the selectmen\u2019s April 4 discussion of the deer hunt, she\u2019d done her own informal, non-scientific survey via email blast. The responses suggested issues like Lyme disease and car accidents remain the leading concerns. \u201cMost of the people who responded were focused on health and safety,\u201d Kozlark said. One couple had expressed reservations about the hunt, she said, but the other 24 responses had been supportive. \u201cAll the feedback I was getting, they were fine with how the deer hunt was being handled,\u201d Kozlark said. Manners, long a vocal opponent to the town hunt, said she\u2019s heard from people uncomfortable with the hunt. \u201cI hear from a totally different group than Maureen,\u201d she said. \u201cThere are people in town, apart from me, who don\u2019t like seeing deer hunted at bait stations.\u201d The town\u2019s \u201ccontrolled hunt\u201d is only a portion of the deer hunting that goes on in town. Deer numbers At the April 4 selectmen\u2019s meeting, Stefano Zandri of the deer committee, which manages the town hunt, had reported that the 2017 hunt took 60 deer \u2014 nine bucks and 51 does. The state\u2019s tracking of all deer taken by hunting last year in Ridgefield \u2014 in the controlled hunt on town lands, but also on state land and on private properties \u2014 was 180 deer taken, Zandri had said. The size of town\u2019s deer herd was part of the April 18 meeting. \u201cHow many deer are there?\u201d said Coyle. \u201cHow many should there be?\u201d \u201cWhat is a stable population?\u201d Marconi asked. He added that coming up with solid numbers had proven problematic, since \u201cflyovers\u201d done to count deer involved renting planes or helicopters, and were expensive. \u201cI know there are some experiments with drones now,\u201d he added. Between the selectmen\u2019s two discussions there wasn\u2019t even agreement that, after 12 years of hunting, the deer population has gone down. Kozlark said there were plenty at her house, but Manners complained that she no longer sees the numbers of deer she used to. \u201cI\u2019d like to know how many foxes are in town,\u201d said Manners, saying she now sees them more frequently than deer. Manners said she hoped to have information \u2014 deer counts, a report on the condition of the understory \u2014 before the public reconsiders the issue. Coyle said the Conservation Commission was working to determine whether the years of hunting had helped with the problem of deer consuming all the understory in the woodlands. As part of its natural resources inventory done 10 years ago, the commission had counted seedlings on a number of small plots in town open spaces. \u201cWe want to go back to six or eight test plots and compare the number of seedlings back then, and now,\u201d Coyle said. Though the different selectmen reported hearing a wide range of opinions on the hunt, they all agreed it made sense to have at least a public hearing where townspeople could once again express their views on town-sanctioned deer hunting on open space lands.