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Urban Deer Bowhunting: Controlling Urban Deer Through Hunting

I juggled my keys and travel cup and opened the front door. All in a second, I heard a shuffling of shrubs and mulch, and my heart almost stopped. There, next to the front porch was a whitetail doe. I had intruded on her early morning rest and she had risen. Only three feet away, she allowed for a quick photo and trotted off into the cul-de-sac. Such is the life in many an American neighborhood.

The occurrence was completely normal. But it seemed like it shouldn’t be. The fact is that for Northwest Austin, it is my normal. This is a place of constant kid-shuttling, Amazon deliveries, and dog-walking sessions. And literally gaggles of deer. Hardly the deer woods I spend so much time traversing. Yet, urban deer sightings aren’t only common but expected. Unavoidable. As an avid deer hunter, it doesn’t bother me (except for the hundreds of dollars I’ve spent over the years replacing shrubs and flowers). Of course, I’m also not crazy about the occasional collisions yielding limping deer and, worse yet, carcasses on streets and in parking lots. Hey, I’m a hunter, but I have feelings too…

Deer behind chair
Local deer on my front porch

Urban Deer Bowhunting Progress

Over the years, through organized efforts, many chunks of the American urban landscape have accepted the concept of reducing whitetail herds through urban deer bowhunting.

Suffice to say, I approve of this.

There are various justifications for this approach, including the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, property damage, and collisions. Plus, there are many that consider the overabundance of these hoofed creatures as a bona fide nuisance.

However, in areas like Austin, urban bowhunting is off-limits due to politics and a misguided anti-hunting and animal-loving sentiment. But this is not meant as a political piece; rather I intend to present the urban deer issue and all that is good with urban bowhunting, not only as a solution to an overabundance of whitetails but as a good idea in general.

Luckily, urban bowhunting has made significant progress in many areas around the country. What once seemed unheard of is now a reality, as many non-hunters have been educated to the fact that, like in rural areas, hunting is a great option for managing urban deer populations. Here are just a few other reasons why it’s a good thing – at least in the eyes of this conservation-minded promoter of hunting and the outdoors.

The Culinary – Urban deer hunters can (and do) provide healthy venison to food pantries through programs such as Hunters for the Hungry. Further, hunter-harvested venison is a healthier alternative to store-bought meat options. It’s delicious, I might add.

Healthier Deer – Harvesting urban deer helps in sustaining healthier deer populations. It remains to be the optimal management practice for white-tailed deer.

The Yard – Reducing urban deer numbers minimizes the inherent damage to ornamental plants and shrubs – and household budgets.

The Roadways – Reducing urban deer herds helps to decrease deer-related collisions on urban and suburban streets – ones that result in property damage and injury to both deer and humans.

The Hunting and the Outdoor Tradition – Urban deer bowhunting helps to maintain and grow the number of hunters through more hunting access. Further, it increases public awareness about bowhunting – and the positive dynamics and outcomes regarding hunting as a whole.

Increased Recreation and Commerce – Bowhunting (and archery) provide a boost to local economies and represent a quality recreational activity.

From a broader perspective, there is a lot of good associated with the safe, ethical, and productive outdoor activity that is archery and bowhunting. And increasingly, opportunities can exist as close to home as the nearest greenbelt section in your neighborhood. Perhaps the great conservationist and outdoorsman Aldo Leopold spoke to this opportunity best;

“The sweetest hunts are stolen. To steal a hunt, either go far into the wilderness where no one else has been or else find some undiscovered place under everybody’s nose”.

Urban Deer
Urban Deer

Urban Deer Hunters

Yes, urban and suburban bowhunting is also good for the hunters themselves as it provides nearby hunting opportunities and, in many cases, a chance to hunt some pretty remarkable bucks. I’m amazed at the nice (sometimes behemoth) whitetail bucks I see within the confines of Austin. And in many areas of the country, trophy-class animals are taken near the likes of strip centers and neighborhood parks.

There is no better example than the group of hunters that make up the Georgia-based Seek One Productions. Avid bowhunters, this outfit has achieved mini-rock star status in the world of suburban deer hunting, harvesting incredible record-class bucks in the Atlanta area. “If you look hard enough, adventure can be found in the most unexpected places and can become part of your everyday life like it has for us, says Seek One Co-founder, Lee Ellis. However, the Seek One bunch doesn’t only promote urban hunting for large bucks but also embraces the benefits of the sustenance that bowhunting in the area provides. Through their Venison Project, venison is provided to those in need through donations of the healthy game meat.

The fact is, urban deer aren’t going anywhere. Deer populations in many urban areas of the U.S. have skyrocketed and many towns and cities are trying to stem the tide – but good options are limited. If you’re lucky to live in an area where the urban bowhunting of whitetails is legal, embrace it. And put your best foot forward. There are many challenges to hunting in these more constrained ecosystems, such as disobliging neighbors and archery-only seasons, not to mention gaining property access in the first place. Just like in the country, remember to respect the land, property owners, and the very deer you hunt. Keep in mind that you are a representative of the whole hunting community.

If you don’t live in such an area, preach the benefits of helping local deer herds and residents with stick and string. While you’re at it, share some delicious venison at the next neighborhood barbeque. And proudly explain how you got it.

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