By Mark Fike
Hunters are increasingly becoming a valuable commodity in urban areas. Yes, you read that correctly. Urban areas all over our country, particularly the eastern portion of the country, are finding that that best way to control deer numbers is to have archery hunters harvest does.
It is no secret to biologists and knowledgeable hunters that the best way to manipulate deer numbers is to manipulate doe numbers. Culling the doe herd cuts way back on the deer herd within a few years.
Urban areas are not inviting of firearms and those same areas certainly do not want hunters firing projectiles in neighborhoods that are powerful enough to kill a deer. However, a bow or crossbow in the hands of a trained hunter is a very effective tool.
Years ago Fairfax, Virginia saw an explosion of deer numbers. The situation was becoming very serious with not only damage being done to yards, flowers, and other plants, but deer were becoming a road hazard with vehicular collisions increasing at a rapid rate.
Virginia started an urban archery season and hunters stepped up. Last season over 800 deer were removed from parks with 1500 + removed from private lands in Fairfax alone.
Some hunters literally hunt in backyards of families who are having problems with deer. I recall seeing a photo of a family eating supper at their table and behind them through the sliding glass door was a hunter perched in a tree within sight of the house!
Virginia is not the only state to take to urban archery seasons to help control deer numbers. Many states all over the country are finding out that this is the way to go. Archery accidents are very, very low and in Virginia since 1960 only 5 archery accidents occurred that involved a victim other than the hunter with the last one in 1996 according to the Fairfax County Government Department of Resources website.
Archers are deployed in stands so they are shooting downward and since shots have to be very close anyway, there is little chance of any accidents. Participants are typically required to have completed hunter education and many areas require completion of the International Bowhunter Education Program safety course.
So why would hunters want to consider this an opportunity? First of all the seasons are generally lengthy and allow for plenty of time to harvest a deer outside of many other hunting seasons. Second, hunters are usually required to take does only and this means meat in the freezer freeing up the rest of the season for hunting a trophy buck for those that enjoy chasing a rack for the wall.
Obviously, the chance to put some meat in the freezer or donate to the Hunters for the Hungry or similar programs is a great motivation. Additionally, there are plenty of deer in these areas so little time is spent looking for a deer. Odds are that hunters will see plenty of deer!
Putting aside any self-serving desire to put meat up for the winter, urban archery hunters are helping others whether they are donating the meat to a food bank, lowering the deer herd to reduce car collisions or reducing the numbers of deer to prevent disease in the deer herd and suffering of the animals, landscape/habitat damage or even to reduce the number of ticks and tick-borne illnesses! Deer are known to have lots of ticks on them.
As we approach September, now is the time to look into your state and urban archery programs to see what you need to do to participate. You would be surprised how many city dwellers want to see the deer gone or at least reduced.
I recall an incident I experienced in Northern Virginia years ago. I was hunting in an area outside of the city and on private land where I could actually use a rifle. However, shots were very limited and angles had to be accounted for before shooting. People that did business on this horse farm were primarily from the nearby city.
I was standing with my rifle at a fence overlooking a very large pasture that ran to the bottom of the hill. A very expensive SUV came up the driveway behind me full of “city people.” I did not turn around despite the SUV stopping behind me because I was trying to avoid conflict from “Bambi lovers.”
I heard the power window roll down and then a female voice hissed, “Hey, there are 12 deer in the lower field we just drove by. PLEASE go shoot them all. They are eating up the pasture and costing us more hay for our horses!”
Stunned, I whirled around and stared at a very attractive lady dressed to the nines with manicured nails pointing down the road to the lower pasture. She looked as if she had never gotten off the pavement. I learned yet again a very valuable lesson about not stereotyping people and I also learned that money talks and when people have to part with their money (the pasture for horses) they don’t like it!
The point is that hunters are in demand in urban settings. This is a great time to put the meat in the freezer freeing up your time later and it is a great time to mentor someone about hunting from start to finish. Urban deer hunting is a very good opportunity not to be passed up.