I am just back from Viet Nam where I watched water buffalo in rice paddies and sailed in a junk among the curious rock formations of Halong Bay. But more importantly, I visited the War Remnants Museum, formerly the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes. I spoke with Vietnamese veterans of that impossible war in which America wreaked havoc on a countryside and people with Agent Orange and napalm. It was an interesting but trying trip. So I was delighted to return home to the Vineyard in time to find fall at its finest. The trees just now are enjoying their final colorful autumn fling. Island woods are crimson and gold, russet and orange and tawny. The last of the wild asters are flowering. In my garden, coral roses are in bloom.

I set off on Monday for a walk in the Sheriff’s Meadow property at Cedar Tree Neck. It was late in the day. The waters of Daggett’s Pond were black. On them, flotillas of golden leaves sailed serenely. It was quiet. A mother and daughter were exploring the woods and the shore. Children played ball in the sanctuary parking lot. I remembered as I watched them the many times years ago that, in early November, the parking lot had been the site of an annual Henry Beetle Hough birthday party. Human and canine friends of the late Gazette editor and Sheriff’s Meadow founder would gather to picnic, herald Mr. Hough and stroll through the woods down to the North Shore beach to watch the waves.

Walking along the trails Henry Hough had so often walked with his pet collie, I remembered not only those tailgate parties, but Henry and Betty Hough’s tireless efforts to create that sanctuary for rabbits and skunks, otter and deer, quick-witted crows and musical songbirds. And they wanted it to be a refuge for humans too, a place of escape from the hustle and bustle that even two decades ago was threatening the Vineyard.

Setting off into the woods, I stopped to read the explanatory board that welcomes visitors to Cedar Tree Neck and describes it as “a sanctuary for wildlife.” With the exception of cats (and even those he would surreptitiously care for if he found them abandoned), Henry Hough and his wife loved and nurtured all living creatures.

And so it was with astonishment when I returned from my sunset meandering and leafed through the Gazettes from my time away, that I read that bow and arrow deer hunting will be allowed on two Sheriff’s Meadow properties: Quansoo Farm and the Oyster-Watcha Midlands Preserve.

I am hard-pressed to think of any use of Sheriff’s Meadow lands that would have dismayed its founders more. Even though the Cedar Tree Neck Sanctuary is not among the properties where deer hunting is to be allowed, the tranquility that my woodland walk had induced after the jarring return of Viet Nam War memories, was gone. In announcing the Sheriff’s Meadow board’s decision to allow such hunting due to the abundance of Island deer carrying ticks bearing Lyme disease, Sheriff’s Meadow director Adam Moore admits that the organization’s founders were not proponents of hunting. He adds that in their day there was not the prevalence of tick-borne diseases there is today. He is wrong about that; Rocky Mountain spotted fever was a concern then and a disease that the Houghs, along with animal shelter founder Katharine M. Foote, were in the forefront of fighting.

I had thought returning to the Vineyard in fall would be a joyous homecoming. Instead, I find myself appalled at the prospect of deer being killed by hunters’ arrows in Sheriff’s Meadow preserves. Surely if there must be culling of the white-tailed deer population, it can de done somewhere not designated as a wildlife sanctuary or woodland preserve. Of course deer cannot read, but humans who enjoy preserves can. I wonder how Sheriff’s Meadow properties can under the circumstances continue to be called sanctuaries.

As I left the Vineyard for my trip overseas, the house that Henry and Betty Hough built on Pierce Lane in Edgartown was being demolished to make way for a reproduction of an old house. Now it is gone. Will the sanctuaries they established suffer the same fate?