Deer have become a nuisance and a traffic hazard in Durham, and a new idea for what to do about them has gained some traction at City Hall.
“Urban archery” – hunting deer with bows and arrows inside the city limits.
“We’re working on it,” City Manager Tom Bonfield said last week. “Researching it right now.”
Special bow seasons for deer are open now in 37 North Carolina towns, including Chapel Hill and Pittsboro, in part for sport and in larger part to cull the overabundant animals that devour gardens, encounter automobiles and spread Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other tick-borne maladies.
“Something needs to be done,” said Eric Steinbicker, an Efland dentist and bow hunter who wrote the City Council last fall asking members to consider urban archery in Durham. His online petition to the council ( chn.ge/12ah9K4
) had 298 signatures Wednesday.
“I was just always amazed how many deer there are near Southpoint mall,” Steinbicker said. “Always. Always.”
That abundance was what moved him to contact Durham, he said.
“We’re not talking about (hunting in) downtown Durham or anything like that,” Steinbicker said. “Parcels that are larger that are within the city limits,” some 100 acres or more, he said.
The state Wildlife Resources Commission established an urban archery season in 2007. It runs from early January to mid-February each year, just after the regular deer season closes.
Towns that choose to do so adopt local ordinances to allow and set conditions for the urban archery season. They must re-approve urban archery and register with the commission, each year.
The practice is spreading. In the first year of an urban archery season, 2008, only two towns signed up, Elkin and Washington. In 2010, there were 18, and 30 in 2012. Wake Forest will become the first Wake County municipality to allow it if the town council re-approves its ordinance on its second reading, town spokesman Bill Crabtree said; it passed a first reading in January.
Garner voted down urban archery, for safety concerns, in 2010, and some Chapel Hill council members were aghast at the idea of arrows flying in town when urban archery was proposed there in 2009.
But the town is currently in its third season and no unfortunate incidents have been reported. Butch Kisiah, parks and recreation director, expects the program will be renewed next year, too.
Licensed hunting is permitted anywhere within Chapel Hill’s town limits and there is no minimum area required, but Kisiah said most bow hunters he knows of use tracts “within the three- to five-acre” range. Hunters may use their own land, and others’ by permission, but public property is off-limits, he said.
Pittsboro, in its fourth urban archery season, requires landowners to register to register their property where they will allow urban archery. Hunters took two deer there in each of the past two years, but, according to police Cpl. Troy Roberson, no land has been registered so far this year.
“Obtaining permission to hunt within the city limits has become the biggest obstacle for hunters since the program was adopted,” Roberson said.
Controlling the deer population is the primary purpose of urban archery. Just how effective it is, though, is hard to measure.
“It depends on how you’re looking at it,” said Carolyn Rickard, spokeswoman for the Wildlife Resources Commission. “If you’re a private landowner and you have deer on your property ... it can be an effective way.”
In Elkin’s 2008 season, urban archers killed 45 deer, according to state records. In 2012, the total was down to 15, but the decline could have multiple explanations.
“I haven’t seen any reduction,” said Kisiah, in Chapel Hill, where the 2011 harvest was five and the 2012 total was 10. “I’m sure it has some effect, for no other reason than (that) we are taking some deer every year.
“So it’s got to be helping some – to what extent, I couldn’t tell you.”