Sep 082012

urban deer in backyardsAs a hunter, I find few things more frustrating than the days when I get up balls-early, drive 45 minutes or more to reach the hunting grounds, tromp way out into the woods, and then don’t see a single deer or turkey. Especially when, on my way home from work, I might spot a few turkeys or an entire herd of deer grazing casually about 40 yards from my car. Urban zones are often areas in dire need of deer management strategies. Ironically, they’re also some of the most difficult places to get permission to hunt, thanks to overzealous county ordinances, animal rights nuts, and the general populace’s basic fear of being sued.

Deer Population Control in Cities

Case in point: In the city where I live, there’s a township called Town & Country with one of the densest deer populations in the entire state. Many residents complain about the nuisance — deer just love eating perennials, flowers, decorative plants, and other elements of landscaping — and there’s also a concern about road safety. There’s no winner in a deer-vehicle collision. Deer management in Town & Country is a constant item on city council agendas. There are a lot of people closely following the issue, simply because T&C has one of the worst deer problems.

Last year, city council members agreed that the best deer management strategy would be to hire a [sharpshooter] company to shoot deer. This was not an inexpensive solution. Of course, concerned citizens wanted to know what would be done with the meat, so additional funding would have to be set aside to process the meat so that it could be donated to food pantries. Between that and the company-of-choice’s fees, the cost to remove a few hundred deer worked out to around $600. Each.

Managed hunts were briefly discussed in city council meetings as a deer management strategy, and ruled out as “ineffective.” Ridiculous!

Benefits of Hunting in Urban Zones

There are lots of reasons to look for places to hunt inside the city limits:

  • Plenty of game. Between the abundance of food (flower beds) and absence of natural predators, deer and turkey populations tend to flourish in urban areas.
  • Harder to spook. Animals in urban areas see people and vehicles all the time, often from very close.
  • Quick access. You might find a place to hunt that’s much closer to your home. Perhaps even “on the way” to work, so you can stop by for quick scouting expeditions.
  • Community service. Like it or not, many cities and townships have out-of-control deer populations. Responsible bowhunters can show how our method of deer management is both safe and effective.

Finding Places to Hunt

Of course, it’s not easy or all of us city-dwelling weekend warriors would be hunting in our backyards. Generally, local ordinances require that you have at least one acre of property to hunt on. One benefit of living in a decent-sized city is that their records tend to be digitized and widely accessible: property boundary/ownership maps available online and linked to public records are an invaluable tool. Here are some places to look:
  1. Conservation areas that allow hunting. These do exist; they’re usually archery-only areas that are either (1) open for hunting or (2) locations of managed hunts. The downside is that hunters generally know about these, so they tend to be crowded. The resulting pressure makes game scarce.
  2. Government-owned land. The biggest landowner in the U.S. is the federal government. State and even local governments also own and manage tracts of land in city limits. Whether these can be hunted or not tends to vary. My personal opinion is that if there aren’t any signs prohibiting trespass and/or hunting, and it’s government-owned land that’s suitable for hunting, I (as a taxpayer) have just as much right to it as anyone else.
  3. Pre-development sites. Many appealing tracts of land are held for years before they’re cleared and built upon. In the meantime, the relatively undisturbed terrain makes an ideal habitat, drawing game in from all around.
  4. Private lands. The real gems within city limits, the large and densely wooded lots that seem ideal for hunting, tend to be privately owned property. The owner might be a lucky/wealthy individual, a neighborhood association, or a corporation. You need the permission of the landowner or manager to hunt these areas. This is the tricky part, because granting you permission might be construed as accepting liability for your actions.

Following Local Ordinances

Most bowhunters are safe, ethical, and responsible individuals. It’s our responsibility to know and follow the rules, which (in non-urban conservation areas) are generally set by the conservation department. In urban areas, there’s the added complication of local laws and ordinances. The bigger the township, the more ordinances you can expect to encounter. Many are published online and searchable. Here are some of the relevant ordinances I’ve come across that apply to bowhunting:
  • Weapons ordinances. These are important. Hunting bows are obviously weapons, and their use within city limits is tightly regulated. Often they forbid shooting (1) near schools or public buildings, (2) in the general direction of a person, building, vehicle, and (3) close to roads, highways, or public/private property. You  might also have to register with or notify local police if you intend to hunt.
  • Hunting ordinances. It may simply be illegal to hunt deer and/or turkey in certain townships. Where it’s allowed, they might stipulate when and where you can hunt, how you hunt, and what you do with the game you take. For example, one township near where I live requires you to hunt from a tree stand at least 10 feet up or higher, so that you’re shooting toward the ground.
  • Animal/game ordinances. Townships often have [common sense] laws that prevent hunters from upsetting or disturbing their citizens. For example, you often cannot (and generally shouldn’t) field dress a deer in a conspicuous public place. You can’t drive a vehicle with a dead animal in plain view, such as an open truck bed or “strapped to the hood” as they did in the good old days.
There are obviously many challenges to hunting in urban areas. Nevertheless, it’s something that we, as bowhunters, should consider. The better we represent ourselves and serve the community, the more rights we’ll be granted. Sounds like a win-win to me.


Deer management is a delicate subject

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Written by Dan Koboldt

  4 Responses to “City Limits: Bowhunting in Urban Zones”

  1. […] a follow-up to my previous post on bowhunting in urban zones, I’ve scouted one such area that’s only a few miles from my house. This is a tract of […]

  2. […] a follow-up to my previous post on bowhunting in urban zones, I’ve scouted one such area that’s only a few miles from my house. This is a tract of land […]

  3. […] not in the field. I keep my eye out for deer while we’re driving around town, daydream about bowhunting in urban areas, and follow the exploits of other hunters on Twitter and MWT […]

  4. […] not in the field. I keep my eye out for deer while we’re driving around town, daydream about bowhunting in urban areas, and follow the exploits of other hunters on Twitter and MWT […]

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