Beginning Monday, hikers and bikers in Burlington’s so-called landlocked forest will have to keep a sharp eye out for deer — and the archers who may be hunting them.
The Board of Selectmen has approved regulations designed to allow bowhunting but hopes to ensure it does not pose a hazard to other users of the 250-acre woods.
From Oct. 21 to Dec. 31, excluding Sundays — the state season for deer — up to 30 archers will be allowed to pursue their quarry in the town-owned parcel along Route 3, which is called landlocked because Burlington residents can access it only through Bedford and Lexington.
The adoption of the rules, developed by a committee that included bowhunters and those who had safety concerns, ended months of discussion and debate over whether the forest, which is widely used by walkers, mountain bikers, among others, should be open to archers. In June, selectmen voted to allow bowhunting, subject to its later adoption of rules.
“I’m very pleased with it,” said Selectman Dan Grattan, who chaired the study committee. “We worked hard to make sure we addressed the concerns of both groups.”
Selectmen first began exploring a bowhunting policy last fall when residents reported seeing archers in the forest. The board discovered that people had been hunting there for many years, but the board had never authorized it. Meanwhile, the property has seen greater use overall since Town Meeting in 2008 rejected a controversial development plan.
Modeled after rules adopted in Andover and Weston, the Burlington forest regulations require a town bowhunting permit in addition to the required state license. Twenty permits were reserved for Burlington residents, and 10 for nonresidents.
Hunters also must hold a bowhunting education certificate and pass a town-administered archery proficiency test. The state does not require a proficiency test, but several years ago began requiring new license holders to obtain an education certificate, according to Joseph Morandi, a bowhunter who served on the study committee.
Morandi said 18 permits were issued, eight to Burlington residents and 10 to nonresidents. He said two people did not qualify because they did not pass the proficiency test, while others were not eligible because they had not taken the state’s safety course.
Each hunter is limited to two stands, or tree platforms, and they must use strap-on or ladder steps to reach the platforms, to avoid damaging trees. The hunter’s local permit number must be visible on every tree stand or blind.
Hunters must report all deer takings to the town’s Conservation Department, which is administering the permit program, and maintain a log in which they record the days they hunt and observations about other hunters and wildlife.
Signs will be posted at entrances into the forest, advising the public that deer hunting is allowed and telling hunters about the requirements. The most commonly used entrance to the forest is off Turning Mill Road in Lexington, according to John Keeley, the town’s conservation administrator.
“I’m absolutely thrilled by it,” Morandi said of the regulations, hailing the spirit of compromise that he said enabled enthusiasts and those wary of bowhunting to reach common ground.
The rules were accompanied by a town policy opening the forest to bowhunting for the 2013 season, subject to the new rules. After this season, selectmen will need to consider whether to extend the policy into future years.
The Friends of the Landlocked Forest, which helps maintain the forest and advocates for its protection, had voiced concerns about whether it would be safe to allow bowhunting in an area used by so many others.
But Martha Simon, who is the group’s president and served on the committee, supports the regulations developed by the panel.
“There are people who are against hunting and I have no problem with that position. But the Board of Selectmen voted to allow archery deer hunting, so given that, I think it’s a reasonable and safe policy,” Simon said, adding that the rules can be revised if any problems arise.
Simon said that her own research had led her to conclude that bowhunting will not put other users of the forest at significant risk.
“I’ve learned a lot about it and it’s a relatively safe sport,” she said.
The Massachusetts Bowhunters Association on its website said that “an archer in the state of Massachusetts has never injured a nonhunter,” citing the state Division of Environmental Law Enforcement.
The rules do not provide for any penalty for violators, but, Simon said, “hunters are going to police themselves because they don’t want to lose this privilege.”
The rules allow for selectmen at any time to close the forest to hunting or to revoke a permit.
Two bowhunters, Morandi and Richard Bagni, were appointed by selectmen as volunteers who will assist the Conservation Commission in overseeing the permitting program, including administering the archery proficiency tests and helping with the lottery that will be conducted if there are more applicants than available permits.
Morandi, who was ineligible to apply for a license himself this season because he does not have a bowhunting education certificate, said he will keep a watchful eye in the forest for any signs of hunters violating the rules and to advise anyone doing so to comply.
He said he plans to obtain a certificate next year and will apply for a license then.
“I don’t want this messed up,” he said, noting that problems could lead to hunters being barred from the forest. “I want it to go perfectly for everyone — myself and the Friends of the Forest.”