Bowhunting can be an effective tool in controlling suburban deer populations. Shooting from an elevated stand can keep arrows confined in a small area making it quite safe to hunt in close proximity homes and other buildings. Game managers and parks departments across the country are seeing the value on implementing these kind of special seasons.

Nebraska’s bowhunting season for deer has been going for a while now…since September 1…and I know quite a few archers that have already put venison in their freezers. Aside from feeding the hunter, bowhunting is becoming a recognized as a very viable way to control growing deer herds in suburban areas.

One of the biggest problems in managing deer herds is in those areas where hunting is often not allowed. Officials trying to manage deer populations inside municipal boundaries are finally catching on to the fact that bowhunting is a safe and effective way to control deer numbers.

We all know of places where we see deer regularly in town. We plant all kinds of things that taste good to deer, so why wouldn’t they be in town getting a snack? Of course this creates problems, like destruction of ornamental vegetation, traffic hazards, etc. When the problem gets too much for residents, something has to be done. Bowhunting is an answer. It is quiet and safer method of hunting in the close quarters of suburban areas than using firearms.

For example, Granville, Ohio enacted an ordinance that allows bowhunting inside the city limits. Hunting will be permitted on public and private property within town boundaries. Of course, anti-hunting groups objected to the ordinance, recommending that the village adopt deer birth control methodologies. Just a reminder to those that think this might be a good idea, all attempts to date to use deer birth control methods, anywhere, have proven to be woefully ineffective. The hunting program is working well.

In the Des Moines, Iowa suburb of Urbandale, bowhunting will now be permitted in four city parks to safely control deer numbers. The Polk County Deer Task Force estimates that there are 60-90 deer per square mile, far beyond the natural carrying capacity of the ground. That is due to all the “food sources” people plant in their yards. Private property is also included in the hunting zone (with the landowner’s permission). Archers may take antlerless deer from a tree stand. Hunting and is not permitted within 100 feet of a road, walking trail or within 200 feet of a home or building without the owner’s permission. This program seems to be working as well.

In Portage, Indiana, the John Merle Coulter Nature Preserve has opened its lands to bowhunting and the Shirley Heinze Land Trust recently received Portage City Council permission to allow bowhunting on its property to control the expanding deer herd that is causing extensive property damage and threatening endangered plants. Hunters need all the necessary permits prescribed by law, plus complete a special hunter education course to participate in this hunt.

Fontenelle Forest near Bellevue has used controlled hunting successfully. “We have run controlled deer hunts since 1996”, said Fontenelle Forest Chief Ranger, Josh Preister. “Over that time we have taken out over 1,000 deer using archery, muzzleloaders, shotguns with slugs and high powered rifles using depredation state permits. Our herd now is dramatically fewer, starting at about 80 deer per square mile, now at likely 20-25 deer per square mile.”

Airports are another area where this means of deer population control could prove effective. Think about the stories you hear of airplanes hitting deer on takeoff or landing, quite a dangerous situation.

Overall, the successes of these programs are becoming hard to ignore and are getting more national attention. I predict it will become more common in urban areas.

Two other species that are creating problems for home owners and city managers are non-migratory geese and turkeys. These populations have are grown rapidly in the last decade.

With respect to non-migratory geese, you only need to look at municipal parks and golf courses to see what I mean. The USFWS has granted states the authority to set additional hunting seasons for non-migratory geese. Archers could easily and safely control these populations.

Turkey populations have exploded all across the country. In a recent publication by the National Wild Turkey Federation, they cited Nebraska as one of the areas with the highest turkey population density in North America. Turkeys adapt to people and will roost on houses...and make quite a mess. I’ve had a few calls to get rid of turkeys that roost on gutters. It only takes the weight of a few turkeys to pull a gutter off of a house.

Want to see an example close to home? In Beatrice, just go up to Dorsey Street some morning or afternoon and watch the “herd” of turkeys, known as the Dorsey Street Gang, cross the road. They roost in the timber north of 16th and 17th street. There are dozens of turkeys now…soon there will be hundreds. I wonder how long it will be before Beatrice looks for a solution to turkey overpopulation?

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