They trample shrubs and scrape the bark from trees, crash through branches and eat everything in sight.And despite claims recreational hunters have cut feral deer numbers in the Illawarra, Irene Tognetti insists her Keiraville property is more infested than ever."They have denuded the escarpment and my garden," she said. "You go out at three in the morning and there are 20 just sitting in my garden, whole families of them." Controversial deer-hunting season startsAs the Mercury reported last week, the University of Wollongong is among a growing number of local property owners to recruit the NSW Game Council's free recreational shooters, rather than paid hunters, to kill deer.But Mrs Tognetti, whose property backs on to the university's land, said Game Council shooters had failed to make a substantial dent in the population."Those people don't want to take out deer and that's a fact," she said. "They're not doing it to kill, they take out three or four and leave the rest."Her claim is backed by Carol Booth from the Invasive Species Council, a non-profit group that campaigns for better feral animal control. "It's not in (recreational shooters') interests to reduce the population completely, they want to leave enough to hunt," she said. "Controlling feral animals is a difficult job and it needs to be done properly; we need a proper program with defined targets."A present push by the NSW Shooters' Party to allow recreational hunting to be trialled in national parks meant questions surrounding the new hunting model must be addressed urgently, Ms Booth said.A NSW Game Council spokesman rejected suggestions volunteer hunters had not effectively reduced deer numbers in the Illawarra. Its shooters, he said, had removed 1500 deer in the past four years, including 50 from the university."There is no evidence that professional hunters gain better or more humane results in removing a fleet and elusive quarry like deer than Game Council-licensed hunters," he said.Meantime, a Wollongong City Council spokeswoman said the council's draft Pest Management Plan proposed the use of paid hunters. "By entering into a contract with professional shooters, we can ensure the correct risk assessments are completed and we can enforce the council's protocols and procedures," she said.