Deer Management Program

Sudbury’s Deer Management Program

Since 1999, the Conservation Commission has implemented a deer management program on a number of conservation parcels to responsibly manage the deer population through bow hunting, by permit from the Conservation Commission. After much consideration, the Commission implemented this Program to fulfill its responsibility to manage Sudbury’s open spaces for the benefit of Sudbury’s native plants and wildlife, to sustain the environmental integrity of these conservation lands, and to protect these lands from illegal hunting. The purpose of this Program is to stabilize the deer population, in a safe manner, as part of the Commission’s land stewardship obligation under the Conservation Commission Act.

Sudbury’s Conservation Commission permits bow hunting for white-tailed deer on 17 conservation parcels from October through December 31st. A small number of bow hunters (generally one to three per property) are assigned to the following Conservation properties:

  • Barton Farm
  • Howe Land
  • Parkinson
  • Broadacres
  • King Philip Woods
  • Piper Farm
  • Cail Farm
  • Libby Land
  • Poor Farm Meadows
  • Davis Farm
  • Lincoln Meadows
  • Tippling Rock
  • Frost Farm
  • Mahoney Farms
  • Wake Robin
  • Hop  Brook
  • Nobscot

Click here for a map of where bow hunting is permitted.

Currently, 22 responsible bow hunters are actively enrolled in the Program. They have all been interviewed and tested by the Conservation Commission for proficiency. Hunters must also have all other necessary licenses and permits from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (MA DFW). Hunting is not permitted within 500 feet of dwellings or within 150 feet of roads. Approved licensed hunters must pass proficiency testing every five years and are required to hunt from tree stands only. The bow hunter’s range averages 20 yards from the elevated tree stands. Arrows are aimed downward towards the ground and the deer must be broad-side and stationary before a shot may be taken, making bow hunting the safest form of deer management. 


Will bow hunting disrupt your recreational use of our Conservation Lands?

Walking and recreational uses of conservation lands are not disrupted by this activity. The deer stands are located high up in the trees and away from trails. The hunters are keenly aware that many of these Conservation Lands are heavily used by people and dogs and actively seek to avoid conflict with other trail users. It is important to note that since the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife began keeping records, there has never been a report of non-hunter injuries from bow hunting.

Unfortunately, illegal hunting does occur on conservation lands, and was one of the primarily reasons this Program has been expanded to additional properties through the years. The bow hunters in our program help us monitor for and deter illegal hunting, thereby improving safety for everyone in the woods.

Additionally, our conservation lands are improved through this Program, which requires each hunter to provide the Conservation Office with a minimum of two hours of service each year. Program participants help maintain our trails, build boardwalks, bridges and kiosks, and help manage the land for the benefit of native species.


Is hunting inconsistent with the purpose of conservation land? 

To protect native plants and animals, we must actively manage these parcels. Humans are a key element in the ecological equation that governs these properties. Furthermore, humans have been predators of deer for thousands of years. An unrestricted deer population is a powerful disruptive force in Sudbury’s forests, wetlands, and fields. In this case, proper management of conservation land requires human intervention to protect and preserve diversity of both flora and fauna. A hands-off approach would allow deer to continue to threaten many native species.

As a Town dominated by pine trees, Sudbury is particularly vulnerable to a significant shift in its forest dynamics from over-browsing. Pine trees are very slow growing species. Therefore if seedlings do not regenerate and/or are not permitted to mature, we will lose our coniferous canopy. This will impact our climate resiliency by reducing shade, increasing temperatures, and reducing the amount of carbon dioxide sequestered within our forests.

Per the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, the deer population in Massachusetts went from less than 1,000 in the late 19th century to more than 150,000 today. There is no way to know the exact deer population of Sudbury; however, the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife estimates for our region about 28-40 deer/square mile. MA DFW’s and the Commission’s goal is a population of 12-18 deer per square mile.


Bow Hunting Regulations

Hunters in the Program must adhere to the following Regulations:

  1. Proficiency testing, conducted by the Conservation Office, is required to be completed every five years.
  2. Hunting is permitted in designated locations only. Hunters are required to become familiar with all area boundaries and setback requirements prior to beginning the season. Stand locations must be verified by Conservation staff at the beginning of the season.
  3. Hunting is permitted from tree stands only, which shall not be visible from a conservation trail. Stands are encouraged to be removed at the end of season. Stands that are not removed seasonally may be left in place with permission from the Conservation Commission, provided the GPS location of the stand is provided and stands are secured and posted “Private Property”.  
  4. Strap-on ladders or ladder steps are permitted. No injury to the tree shall be permitted.
  5. No night vision or low light devices are permitted.
  6. Harvested animals must be removed without damage to the area. All traces must be removed.
  7. All deer taken must be reported to the Conservation Commission within 24 hours of harvest.
  8. All Licenses, Permits and maps of approved location and boundaries must be carried at all times.
  9. No other wildlife shall be taken.
  10. All hunters shall be required to donate a minimum of two hours of volunteer time for land maintenance duties on Sudbury Conservation lands.
  11. The hunters Permit Number must be visibly displayed on their tree stand at all times.
  12. Junior archers (aged 17 and under) may accompany a licensed hunter, with permission from the Conservation Commission. Junior archers are required to pass the Commission’s proficiency test and must donate the required two hours of volunteer time.

In the 24 years that this Program has been administered by the Conservation Commission, approximately 150 deer have been harvested from these conservation lands. Deer are not harvested from our lands for sport, as demonstrated by the fact that 108 deer that have been removed were does. Harvesting of doe greatly reduces the deer population by not only eliminating that deer, but also all the fawns she would have produced. Our participants hunt for food, using all parts of the deer to feed their families, and also donate excess to food pantries.

Our hunters are dedicated to Sudbury, resulting in very slow turnover in the Program. The Commission does however keep a wait list, which is quite extensive. If you would like to be added to this list, please contact the Conservation Department at 978-440-5471 or email us at

Please contact the Conservation Department if you have any questions at the number and email above.