About twenty miles south of Burlington, Vt., sits the small town of Charlotte. In many ways it’s a typical New England suburb, with good schools and a short commute attracting new residents to $300,000 homes built on now-posted land once used for hunting and farming.
Concerned about maintaining the land’s traditional use, a group of outdoorsmen formed the Charlotte Sportsmen’s Alliance in 1999 to keep the rural character from being eroded in a tide of sprawl. It’s a daunting fight in an area where national retailers build big-box stores and developers sell McMansions as quickly as they’re built.
But the alliance is standing firm with civility, taking every opportunity to weave the hunting culture into the community. The alliance has mapped public land with the town’s conservation commission, held game dinners for residents, held a free beginner’s shotgunning class at a local skeet field, staffed an information booth extolling the benefits of hunting at the annual town picnic and sponsored two of the town’s teachers at a weekend outdoorswoman program. “Our crowning achievement,” says Bradley Carleton, one of the founders, “is graduating one hundred and ten kids from hunter-education courses.”
Like a lot of suburbs, Charlotte is rich with game. Deer feed in gardens, turkeys visit bird feeders and geese land in the few remaining cornfields. The alliance has gained hunting access. More important, says Carleton, townsfolk are learning about wildlife management and finding out that hunters make good neighbors.