Lynchburg Virginia Bowhunters prepare for urban deer hunts


Mar 11, 2001
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Bow hunters: We're ready, but is city?

By Kevin Crossett / The News & Advance

Jul 14, 2002

Lynchburg bow hunters Andy Calhoun, Les Whealton and Rocky RioSeco can't wait until Sept. 21, opening day of the city's newly established urban archery season.

Starting this season, archers can kill deer in Lynchburg from the end of September through the first week in January, provided they follow the city's self-imposed hunting restrictions.

The hunters say they hope their hobby can help rid Lynchburg of its deer infestation.

"If we can offer a service to the city of Lynchburg, why not do it," Calhoun said.

The archers are part of the newly formed Lynchburg City Bow Hunter's Association, a club they created after the City Council OK'd the archery season at last Tuesday's work session.

In theory, Whealton said, people can call the association, which boasts up to 20 members, to shoot deer on their property.

But while the hunters know they can take a deer down at close quarters with a compound bow, they're unsure whether the city will allow them to do so. Archers, as well as some council members, are concerned that the new ordinance is too restrictive to do any good.

The bow hunting provision, modeled after the city's shotgun hunting program, unnecessarily hamstrings hunters, RioSeco said.

The city limits bow hunting to 10 or more contiguous acres, which closes several residential areas where hunters see the most deer, he said.

Hunters are also restricted from shooting within 100 yards of any building, dwelling, street, sidewalk or on public property.

Furthermore, the police department must issue a permit to private landowners before they can hunt on the property.

Whealton lives in Sandusky, a mature neighborhood with plenty of trees, plants and well-watered lawns - a deer paradise.

Like many others in Lynchburg, Whealton has resorted to fencing to protect his vegetable garden from deer.

The archery ordinance will do little for him.

"I can't hunt in my back yard. I have houses behind me. Obviously I understand that," Whealton said.

Few, if any, homes in the neighborhood would fall within the criteria outlined in the ordinance, he said.

If the city eases its archery restrictions, then areas such as Blackwater Creek, which runs behind houses in the Sandusky neighborhood, can be hunted.

Bow hunting, like gun hunting, requires a steady hand, Calhoun said.

But stealth, planning and more importantly, a close proximity to the animal also play a key role for a successful kill.

Deer must get much closer - usually less than 20 yards -before the archer releases a razor-sharp broadhead arrow.

The archer, sitting in a tree stand 12 feet off the ground, directs the arrow toward an area on the deer about the size of a volleyball, which contains many of the animal's vital organs.

Hitting a deer in the vitals almost guarantees the deer will fall within a few hundred feet, RioSeco said.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries further limits the early bow-hunting season to antlerless deer only. Bucks, with their healthy libidos, are free to roam the city until the full hunting season begins.

"It doesn't make any difference if it has horns on its head or not, it's still going to eat my snap beans," Whealton said.

Council members have little control over the state's regulations.

But, Councilman Julian Adams says, the city's self-imposed restrictions may have erred on the side of safety in lieu of holding people responsible for their actions.

"I have a fair amount of trust that people are going to be careful," he said, adding that there is no reason to stretch the police department any further by requiring it to approve hunting permits.

Adams added that he doesn't support the code's rigid requirements. If someone shoots an arrow from his second-story window, so be it, he said, as long as it's done safely.

Councilman Bert Dodson takes a more cautious approach to the deer problem.

"We are a city in the woods," he said. "We're going to have deer."

But instead of overreacting to the deer epidemic, Dodson says he favors a more systematic approach to reducing the herd.

"You've got to take the emotion out of it," he said. "It's an evolving issue."

The council may reduce the acreage requirement before the season starts.

If so, Dodson says he would sit back and watch what happens during the season.

Next year, he said, the council can review the program and make changes.

"We're taking a big step with the bow hunters," he said, adding that there are still more questions than answers.

"I'm not trying to be gross about it," he said. But, "killing deer is a bloody sport."

He questions what parents will say when their children see a deer collapse on the front lawn with an arrow sticking out of its chest.

He also questions allowing bow hunters free rein in Lynchburg with little or no supervision.

Dodson said he wants to hear from people like C.T Carter, who runs Lynchburg's program.

He says he wants to talk to residents and archers who have more expertise than the council members, none of whom are bow hunters.

The council is expected to discuss the archery ordinance at its Aug. 13 meeting.

Lynchburg already has some plans in place to reduce the deer population.

Residents who own more than 25 acres of land can apply for a shotgun permit to kill deer on their land, though few deer have been taken that way.

Similarly, two part-time sharpshooters are on the city's payroll and are authorized to take as many deer as they can.

They have killed nearly 1,500 deer in the past decade, said Jay Jeffreys of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

In recent years, however, the city's hunters have had less success.

In 2001, for example, police department records show the sharpshooters spotted 1,712 deer and killed 107, barely a dent in the city's 5,500-plus deer population.

Rural areas have been built up, reducing the number of locations that they can hunt, Jeffreys said.

Plus, Calhoun added, the deer have been conditioned to the spotlights that the city's hunters use to target the deer before firing their gun.

"They've learned that there is a 'boom' after that thing comes on," he said.

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