Urban Archery

The idea of an urban archery season is expanding in its popularity around the country.  As the human population grows and expands into the ever shrinking farmlands and wooded areas surrounding our towns and cities, growing deer populations are utilizing their incredible adaptability to move in amongst us.  Calling our greenspace home and our gardens their kitchen.  These deer do more than just property damage by eating our prized azaleas.  Traffic accidents as a result from deer encounters number in the 10’s of thousands each year in Virginia alone.  A state that happens to be in the top ten for deer populations, estimated at 1 million animals.

The deer too suffer.  In some neighborhoods the herds thrive while in others they eat themselves out of house and home and are often found skinny and starving.  Some cities support capture and release or worse euthanasia.  But this proves to be expensive and ultimately ineffective, unable to keep up with an animal that can multiply quickly.  The average whitetail doe will give birth to a single fawn after her first year of breeding when the doe may be as young as 6 months old.  The following year and each year after, given proper nutrition availability, she will almost certainly have twins and possibly triplets.  It is easy to see how populations can quickly get out of hand.

Other communities have turned to the hunter.  Virginia for example has many urban archery opportunities, some which the DEER30 team partake in each year.  Kevin has several stands located on properties within Town limits hoping to bag a “city deer” this fall.  Urban Archery seasons afford hunters the opportunity to get into the stand sooner (September) than otherwise allowed in Virginia, whose opening day isn’t until October 1.   It also extends a spring season that runs until March, keeping the bow hunter busy until Spring gobbler season.

But don’t think for a second that hunting “tame” deer is any easier than those roaming the mountains and farmland.  Sure you may be able to drive to the end of a cul-de-sac and walk 60 yards to your stand, but the deer are just as wild and the hunting style is no different.  An urban deer like its countryfied brethren are just as spooky, skittish, and ready to bolt at a moments notice.  A widespread myth is that urban deer are used to human scent and so are not alarmed when they smell the hunter in a stand.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They may be exposed to human scent more often but deer learn our habits as well.  A change such as finding a concentrated source of human odor in a place that they have never experienced it before, such as a person in a tree, and its snort and blow city!  An urban archer must follow the same scent control practices as any other hunter.

The deer’s needs and habits do not change just because they live in the “concrete jungle.”  They still need adequate food and water supplies and travel to these resources from bedding areas.  Since the food supplies are often our backyards, many times you can’t sit over a food plot or cornfield like you may do elsewhere because of the proximity to occupied dwellings.  So you look for the community open spaces, vacant lots, the little stepping-stones of brush and trees and travel corridors that the suburban environment provides.

This is a stick and string only affair so you need the deer in close to be successful.   You also do not want a wounded deer running for a 1/2 mile into traffic or collapsing on someones lawn.  So although I confidently shoot at deer 40 yards away in a typical hunting setting, I would suggest a much closer shot limit of nothing over 20 yards.  This will maximize the chance of a good shot resulting in a quick clean kill.

Many residents and non-hunters may be concerned about strange men in camo running around between houses flinging arrows everywhere.  You have to remember that every time you walk out your door and into the deer woods that you are an embassador to the sport and never more so then when you are in plain view of many who may not understand what you are doing and how you do it.  Take these opportunities to educate others of the importance of controlling deer populations in urban/suburban areas.  Explain how you harvest the deer safely by shooting from elevated stands towards the ground, at very close range.  Talk about how effective and humane bow hunting is and how the short distance requires target identification and promotes an ethical shot.  Most concerns are the fruit of ignorance and a few minutes of your time could go a long way to winning their hearts and minds.  Who knows, you may even gain some good intel about a deer’s movements from the neighbors.

Before you go IN to town for a hunt be sure to check your local regulations beginning at the state level and all the way down to the Town or even the subdivision’s by-laws.  Become familiar with the season dates and times hunting is allowed, in what zoning properties must reside, the minimum proximity to roads and dwellings from which you can hunt, and what sex is legal during which days of the season.  Urban Archery is a great opportunity to expand your hunting season and bag some great venison for the freezer.  Not to mention educate others about the great sport of hunting and benefit local wildlife.  Oh yeah, and the bucks can become huge as seen in the above photos!

Good luck and good hunting!

– Randy

photos provided by friends of Dennis Stevens

The story about these bucks was also featured in the Roanoke Times.

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