Clayton leaders may let archers kill deer within the town limits, an option intended to curb overpopulation responsible for car crashes and garden mischief.
Clayton resident Jay Hall has asked the Town Council to OK an urban archery season that would allow hunters to slay deer on private property in January and February. More than 40 towns across North Carolina, including nearby Archer Lodge, allow the special season regulated by the N.C. Wildlife Commission.
But Clayton Councilman Michael Grannis said he wants more information before moving forward.
“My first concern is that I’m not too excited about having somebody hunting for deer in the municipality,” Grannis told his fellow councilmen on Monday. “I would like to think it’s going to be taking place in a large, vacant lot, but I don’t know that.”
Wildlife officials say the special hunting season is more about reducing urban deer populations than bagging the biggest buck. More deer are finding and relying on steady food sources within towns. With no pressure from hunters, the animals will not leave, only multiply, said Ken Knight, the state’s supervising wildlife biologist for the Piedmont region.
“If they are happy eating pansies and azaleas, they are going to stay there,” Knight said.
The state allows bow and gun deer hunting in the fall. However, most towns, including Clayton, have ordinances banning hunting in their town limits. Hunters bag most deer on private lands in rural areas or on the more than 2 million acres of public game lands across the state.
“As far as we’re concerned, deer can be hunted everywhere in North Carolina,” Knight said. “It’s local municipalities and growing residential areas who make ordinances and covenants that prohibit the use of harvesting deer.”
Clayton Town Manager Steve Biggs said he will contact a wildlife officer to speak to the Town Council about the urban hunting request.
If the council creates an urban deer season, it would have to decide whether to allow hunting on public property and what restrictions, if any, to place on hunting on private property. Some towns, for instance, allow hunting only on larger tracts of land.
“In a more-urban setting, you’re more likely to have a deer run onto someone else’s property, and that’s where the conflict comes in,” Biggs said. “You have people who love deer, and you have people who love to eat deer.”
The Town of Smithfield, just 12 miles southeast of Clayton, used to take part in the urban archery program. The town now allows bow hunting during the traditional fall season.
Smithfield, which once paid its police officers to take part in an annual deer hunt, requires hunters to shoot from eight-foot-tall stands and be at least 150 feet from property lines.
The Town of Archer Lodge, about seven miles northeast of Clayton, allows all forms of hunting, in addition to the extended urban archery season. The mostly rural farming town, incorporated in 2009, still has many large tracts of undeveloped land suitable for hunting, said Archer Lodge Councilman Matt Mulhollem.
“It made a lot of sense for us,” said Mulhollem, a member of the Quality Deer Management Association. He added that an overpopulation of deer can cause crop damage and higher-than-average deer-related car wrecks.
The Wildlife Commission publishes a booklet each year that includes a list of all towns that take part in the urban archery season. The booklet also lists phone numbers for each town and encourages interested hunters to contact the municipalities for more information.
Mulhollem said Archer Lodge gets phone calls and emails from out-of-town hunters who want to know which residents will let them hunt on their land during urban archery season. He said the town does not provide a list of willing landowners but does issue maps of the town limits.
The urban archery season lasts from mid-January to mid-February and follows the traditional deer hunting seasons.
“It’s an extension and gives the outdoorsmen a couple more weeks to be in a field or collect some venison for the freezer,” Mulhollem said.
From 2010 to 2012, Johnston County reported 1,545 animal-related car crashes, about 90 percent of them involving deer, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation. The crashes caused 67 injuries and property damage totaling $3.5 million, the DOT said.
Statewide, North Carolina reported about 20,000 deer-related car crashes in 2012, and Johnston County ranked sixth highest with 492 crashes, according to a study published last fall by the state’s Highway Safety Research Center.
Biggs, Clayton’s town manager, said the police department is involved in about one deer-related crash each year.
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