Urban Bow Hunts for Virginia Deer

Urban Bow Hunts for Virginia Deer

The Old Dominion's early special-urban archery season is a new way for hunters to fill tags - and help manage the state's growing deer herd.

Photo by Bill Lea

By Bruce Ingram

I am what some people call a "meat hunter" when it comes to deer hunting. I try to put the venison from at least one doe in the freezer, and preferably two, before I even start to think about holding out for something with an impressive rack. So I am always on the lookout for ways that I can tag more does.

Besides the various doe days in the various seasons, Virginia basically offers four ways hunters can help manage the state's deer herd by killing more antlerless deer. They are Damage Control Assistance Program (DCAP), the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), bonus deer permits, and the new early special urban archery season. Dr. Jim Parkhurst, whitetail deer biologist for Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and the statewide coordinator for the urban deer management program for the past 15 years, says the urban archery season may be something that the Old Dominion's municipalities may want to look at as they attempt to manage their often burgeoning deer herds.

"The early special urban archery program can be a very effective way for cities to help control their deer herds," he said. "A hunter taking a doe during one of these hunts can be doing a service to the community. Of course, it is very important for these urban deer hunts to be well planned."

Possible objectives that should be met in this planning process are the following:

* Bowhunters participating should be well qualified with the stick and string (cities may request that an archer exhibit prowess with his bow). As Parkhurst told me: "You don't want someone wounding a deer and having it run through a number of back yards."

* People in the neighborhood where an individual is hunting must accept bowhunting.

* Hunts should take place where the worst deer damage is occurring or possibly where a number of car-deer accidents have taken place. Parkhurst says that some 13 percent of all vehicular accidents are deer related.

The biologist adds that that Lynchburg is a good example of a city that has dealt wisely with its deer problem. When this south-central Virginia domain first began trying to reduce its deer herd, some 15 percent of all car accidents were deer related. Now that figure has dropped to about 5 to 6 percent.

"Bowhunting is a piece in the puzzle when the topic is how to solve a city's deer problem," said Parkhurst. "Deer are everywhere now and even bed in people's yards. And the problem is not going to get better or go away unless we are proactive. Fences, dogs, birth control and repellents are all things that people have discussed, but don't succeed in eliminating the problem. There is a cultural threshold that when reached causes people to stop thinking that deer are cute."

The tentative dates for the early special urban archery season are Sept. 20 through Oct. 3. Last year, among the municipalities participating were the cities of Colonial Heights, Franklin, Lynchburg and Radford and the towns of Altavista, Amherst, Blacksburg, Bowling Green, Farmville, Narrows, and Tazewell, and in towns in Fairfax County. Special locality-specific restrictions may apply during this season. For more information, consult the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Web site at www.dgif.state.va.us.

I also must state that I called one of the above locales a number of times about bowhunting there, and the individual in charge of the program never returned my calls or e-mails. I asked a co-worker at the locale how many archers had signed up for the special hunt, and she told me that no one had. Of course, if no one returns messages, it is hard for people to sign up for a hunt.

Also, the Radford City Council, according to the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, approved an ordinance to allow additional bowhunting opportunities. One stipulation is that archers be in tree stands at least 12 feet off the ground and also that they be afield on tracts of land that are at least five acres. The ordinance went into effect last Nov. 27. State sportsmen should not be surprised if other cities and towns adapt similar ordinances.

One city that has not, as of yet, opted for allowing bowhunters the chance to solve a locale's deer overpopulation problem is Roanoke. A task force was appointed to study the situation and learned, after talking to wildlife biologists and local citizens, that Roanoke residents were indeed experiencing problems with deer-related damage around homes and on the highways. However, no action was taken to imitate any deer hunt in the city.

Roanoke Times outdoor columnist Mark Taylor reported in a Nov. 10 article that a problem indeed existed and was based on hard data from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). In 1997, seven deer/car accidents were reported said Taylor. Since then, accident reports have increased (with the number in parentheses): 1998 (21), 1999 (21), 2000 (14) and 2001 (28). Through October of 2002, the total was already at 15 before the peak of the "deer vs. car" season. As Taylor stated, an increase of 400 percent in the number of deer-related accidents has occurred since 1997.

Another way that sportsmen can help the state manage its deer herd is through the purchase of bonus permits. Bonus deer permits are valid for antlerless deer and are available for $12.50 wherever licenses are sold. These permits allow a sportsman to kill two additional whitetails and are valid only on private lands and authorized public lands and are never valid on national forest or VDGIF-owned lands. A number of other restrictions apply, and these can be found in the Hunting & Trapping in Virginia booklet for 2003-04 or the aforementioned Web site.

Last year, I was fortunate enough to arrow an antlerless deer on opening day of the regular early archery season. As soon as I checked in that deer, I immediately bought two bonus tags for $12.50. That way if my second deer of the season was a doe, I would not have to use a buck tag when I checked in the animal.

One of the great things about bonus tags is this flexibility that they give a Virginia hunter. As the season unfolded, as events turned out my second deer was a buck, and I used, of course, one of the buck tags from my regular big-game license. But my third and fourth deer were antlerless ones taken on private land in Botetourt County, so I used my bonus deer tags for those deer.

Thus when the late muzzleloading season began, I still had a buck tag left for hunting west of the Blue Ridge and another buck tag if I decided to venture into counties east of the Blue Ridge.

Again, the flexibility that bonus tags give is something that many Virginia hunters who like to kill three or four deer for the freezer every year should seriously look into. Plus, bonus tags add extra revenue to the cash-starved Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which because of the car tax cut and a down economy, has been under-funded in recent years.

Yet another use of bonus tags is that hunters can use the deer checked in with them to donate venison to the Hunters for the Hungry. For example, let's say that an individual killed his three-deer limit and was satisfied with the amount of meat that had been stored in his freezer. Yet this same individual wanted to continue hunting. By buying bonus tags, this person could continue to hunt and could then donate the meat from an antlerless deer to Hunters for the Hungry.

Last year, state sportsmen donated in excess of 250,000 pounds of meat from nearly 5,000 deer to the organization, a new record. Thanks to the generosity of sportsmen, over 1 million servings of venison were provided to Commonwealth citizens very much in need of the nutrition and high-quality protein that this red meat brings to the table.

If you would like to donate venison or money to Hunters for the Hungry, contact the organization at P.O. Box 304, Big Island, VA 24526, or call (800) 352-4868. Last year, unfortunately, the organization temporarily ran out of money to process deer in mid-December. Only a sizeable donation from a major corporation allowed Hunters for the Hungry to continue to accept deer. On average, $30 is needed to process one animal, so any kind of donations from sportsmen would be much appreciated.

Ten years ago, many Commonwealth sportsmen, including this writer, would never have predicted that bowhunters would be gearing up over the summer in order to hunt "citified" deer in September. Those days have arrived, however, and state archers may find that the early special urban archery season is a marvelous way to start their 2003 season two weeks earlier.

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