Marion executives take another look at urban archery as a deer management option | Latest titles

Stephanie Porter-Nichols | Smyth County News and Messenger

Charlie Hayden has lived on his Marion property for over 20 years. He has always harvested fruit from a vegetable garden until recently. For several years, he has been declaring to the town hall of Marion that he has obtained nothing from his garden.

Hayden told Marion officials the problem could be summed up in one word: deer.

Charlie Hayden spoke to the city council at its December 20 meeting about the deer problem in town.

Stephanie Porter-Nichols/Smyth County News and Messenger

He presented the council with a petition asking the city to work with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources and create an urban archery season. Hayden told officials that not everyone who signed the petition lives in Marion, but they all shop and eat in the city and, he said, avoided deer on the city streets.

In advocating for an urban archery program, Hayden emphasized its safety. He said no reportable arc-related accidents had occurred since the program began in 2002. Noting that more than 100 pedestrians have died on Commonwealth roads in 2020, he said: “It is more dangerous to cross the street,” he said.

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Hayden and others have repeatedly called for some sort of controlled deer hunting season in the city.

Over the past few decades, the council explored deer management options in 2003, 2009 and 2014.

In 2014 and again last week, council member Susie Jennings noted that the complaints she receives most often focus on deer and what the city is going to do about its population. Other board members agreed.

In 2014, City Manager Bill Rush spoke with his peers from other Virginia cities to learn about their best deer management practices.

From those conversations, Rush said at the time, he learned that there was no single right answer or solution. Managing deer herds, he said, would require ongoing annual expenditures, potentially in the thousands of dollars. “It’s a cost…a pretty significant cost,” he said.

Unless all the surrounding localities manage their deer populations equally, Rush noted in 2014, the population here would fill up quickly even if deer were killed locally.

Among other contributing factors, he noted the accountability and protection of property rights of landowners who do not want deer hunting or killing to take place on their land.

However, one factor has changed since 2014. The large expanse of open land near and along Callan Drive has changed ownership. The previous owner did not allow hunting there. The city itself purchased the former quarry property in this area.

The proposal for an urban archery season met with some support last week.

Councilman Jim Barker said he was somewhat supportive of such a season. “We have a problem with deer,” he said, adding that the city needed to find a way to manage the population before the disease spreads among deer. However, he stressed, “we have to get it right” and work with other agencies.

Councilman Larry Carter observed that the city’s body shops are doing big business because of all the deer-vehicle collisions. The situation, he said, needs to be investigated.

Last week, Rush reiterated that the program would have costs. Still, he said, urban archery can be good for cities and has become more accepted over the past five years. He urged the board to look again at best practices.

Council agreed and referred the matter to its Ordinance Committee for review. Vice Mayor Jim Gates informed Hayden that council will consider the idea over the next two months.

In Virginia, urban archery is overseen by the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR).

The DWR website states: “The objective of the urban archery season is to reduce human-deer conflict in urban areas by concentrating archery hunting pressure in urban/suburban areas . Bow deer hunting is an effective and quiet method of harvesting deer in urban settings. Urban archery seasons have been used for decades as an effective deer management option in a number of Eastern and Midwestern states.

DWR says, “The urban archery season gives localities a way to reduce deer populations within their boundaries while providing hunting recreation.”

For such a season to be enacted, the city council and DWR would have to approve it.

The DWR emphasizes safety stating, “To make this season a success, urban bow deer hunters are urged to exercise extreme caution when it comes to safety, respect the property rights of all landowners and to report any questionable behavior or violations they may witness.

Several towns in southwest Virginia have established an urban archery season, including Saltville, Wytheville, Tazewell, Richlands, Pulaski, Independence, Hillsville, Galax, Blacksburg, and Radford, among others.

Some of these cities impose no restrictions or minimal restrictions, while others impose a variety of regulations on the season.

A commonly enforced rule requires hunters to have written permission from individual landowners to access and hunt on their land.

Many cities say that no one “may shoot a bow within 100 yards of a dwelling, building, street, sidewalk, alley, roadway, public land or a public place within the limits of the city”.

Tazewell only allows hunting on land of at least five acres and makes it illegal to hunt within 100 yards of any school or residence.

Among Wytheville’s requirements is that hunters “must dispose of deer carcasses immediately and appropriately.”

Bristol recently worked with DWR to set up an urban archery season, but are not taking part in the 2021-22 season, which ran from September 4 to October 4. 1 and will run from January 2 to March 27, 2022.

Earnest A. Martinez