The allowable limit for deer for Iroquois hunters in the Dundas Valley increased this year, but they still took well below their allowable limit.
Six Nations hunters took 37 deer from the valley this season, well below the allowable limit of 80. That limit was up from 40 in previous years.
But the hunters took fewer because they're still learning the land, and because they only shoot if they know they can kill, said Paul Williams from the Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority. They also only use bows and arrows and are wary of public safety.
"We didn't sit down with the hunters at the beginning of the season and say 'we have a goal of taking 80 deer,'" Williams said at the Hamilton Conservation Authority's (HCA) annual general meeting Thursday. "We sat down with hunters and said 'Let's be really careful.'"
Dundas Valley is a traditional Haudenosaunee hunting ground. Six Nations members have a right to hunt and fish there under the 18th-century Treaty of Albany, also known as the Nanfan treaty. The Haudenosaunee Wildlife and Habitat Authority struck an agreement with the HCA in 2011, and hunted four days per week from Jan. 7 to 17 this year.
The First Nations hunters will take more deer as they become more familiar with the terrain and the herd, and as hunters "re-establish traditional skills," Williams said.
"It's a matter of it being a restrained hunt and maintaining a very deliberate, gradual approach," he said.
The Haudenosaunee group and the HCA are partnering to study the deer population of the Dundas Valley and its impact. Williams hopes to see the partnership in effect by late April.
The project will evaluate the impact of the herd on the ecosystem. Whether there are too many deer depends on your perspective, he said, but they have observed deer starving because of the number competing for the same food source.
Chris Firth-Eaglund, HCA's chief administrative officer, said the agreement struck two years ago is working well.
"We have not experienced a downside to our relationship."
HCA is currently conducting a survey of the deer population in Dundas Valley.