Backers of bowhunting deer inside Durham’s city limits will have to keep waiting, after the City Council sent the idea back to the lawyers for more work.
Still, the hunters are taking it in stride.
“They’re hearing us out,” said Eric Steinbicker, the Mebane hunter who began promoting archery hunting to Durham council members last year. “We’re willing to compromise.”
At a council work session last week, members raised several concerns about bowhunting in the city, and set several items they want included in a final draft for revising the city code.
The current draft would legalize urban deer hunting, with bow and arrow or crossbow only, during the state’s regular fall season, which opens Sept. 7 this year. All state regulations would apply, and hunters could shoot only from elevated stands on private tracts of land larger than 2 acres.
Hunters would have to be on their own land, in company with the owner, or have the owner’s written permission to hunt on the property. In addition, the council wants:
• An explicit ban on the use of dogs and firearms.
• A ban on the use of mechanical feeders to attract deer.
• A sunset clause, mandating a council review after several hunting seasons.
• And required buffer zones between occupied buildings and hunting grounds.
Council Member Diane Catotti said she would prefer larger acreage, but she did not specifically ask to have the requirement changed. She was also concerned about the aesthetics of deer stands in open view of the non-hunting public.
The council also decided to hold a public hearing before voting whether to approve a revised set of rules.
“I don’t think their suggestions were unreasonable,” Steinbicker said. After the work session he and several hunters who spoke in favor of urban bowhunting conferred, and within 24 hours of the hearing had emailed comments on the council’s additions.
Most of the comments pertained to the acreage, including suggestions to allow owners of small adjoining tracts to combine their properties as an “area of consent” larger than two acres; and pointing out that arrows rarely travel farther than 20 yards and are aimed toward the ground.
Robert Reda, president of the Broken Arrow Archery Club in Chapel Hill, said Chapel Hill has no acreage requirement but the lack of one has caused no problems in the several years bowhunting has been allowed. Pittsboro has no acreage specification, but does have a distance requirement from buildings. Wake Forest, which approved bowhunting earlier this year, set a five-acre minimum
“It’s different for every city,” Steinbicker said. “At the end of the day, they’re going to make the best decision for Durham.”
City Attorney Patrick Baker gave no indication when a draft of revised regulations would be ready for council review.
State law allows cities to legalize hunting, during the regular game seasons and/or in a five-week wintertime Urban Archery season. Durham’s proposed regulations only apply to the fall.
Advocates of urban bowhunting say it helps relieve overpopulation, control troublesome deer populations and could provide meat for programs that feed the needy, such as the Durham Rescue Mission.
“One deer provides almost 160 pounds of meat,” Don Hilke of Durham said.
At the work session, Durham naturalist “River Dave” Owen read his poem “Ancient Dance,” which comments on urban hunting from the deer’s point of view, and passed out suggestions of his own: that the council encourage:
• No feeding of deer.
• Driving slowly in areas deer frequent.
• Eight-foot fences around gardens.
• Using insect repellant against deer-spread disease ticks;
• Appreciation of Durham’s coyote population as a control on deer population.