A heated debate swirled in a standing-room-only meeting Wednesday night of the Village of Head of the Harbor's board of trustees, but no decision was made regarding a proposal to allow deer hunting by bow and arrow.

The incorporated village in Smithtown discussed potentially amending its firearms code.

The divisive discussion before about 70 people centered on safety issues, the merits of bow hunting and whether a deer population problem even exists.

The amendment would apply to areas designated by the board of trustees, and hunting would require a village license in addition to a state DEC license, village Mayor Douglas Dahlgard said.

When questioned, Dahlgard said there was no count of the village's current deer population.

"We're proposing a very limited action here, but some people may say that's a big step," he said.

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The deer issue was brought to the board's attention primarily by residents with large properties, about 4 acres to 5 acres, who say deer are consuming the bulk of the vegetation on their land, Dahlgard said.

There are about two dozen lots larger than 5 acres, and Dahlgard said he'd spoken to roughly three or four eligible homeowners who supported hunting.

Many residents questioned why the law would be changed for so few villagers.

"Why would you take away the one law that makes me feel safe here?" asked Gerard Schweitzer.

Eric Stubbs suggested homeowners affected should commission a study about the best ways to control the deer population.

Other methods of managing the deer were debated, including building fences and using contraception.

According to Michelle Gibbons, DEC regional wildlife manager, who was present at the meeting, hunting is the most effective tool for managing a deer surplus.

Safety was the main concern of the meeting: Meghan O'Brien, 11, read a statement in which she expressed her concern for children playing outside.

"Now I have to worry about an arrow hitting us," she said.

In addition to Head of the Harbor, Huntington Town and Port Jefferson's Belle Terre are discussing legalizing deer hunting. The East End towns and Brookhaven allow bow hunting.

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The hearing was kept open and will be reconvened at the Oct. 21 trustees meeting, largely because several officials, including the chief of police and the village attorney, were not present.