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Wednesday, 17 January 2007 00:00

Urban archery and tally ho!

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The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has decided that creating an urban bowhunting season would be a wonderful resource municipalities could use to lessen the negative impacts of deer/human conflicts.

I guess it would be quieter than gunfire — residents out on their early morning jog wouldn’t be inclined to duck and cover every time an arrow was loosed. And errant arrows don’t usually tend to travel for hundreds of yards before something with sufficient mass stops their forward progress.

I guess the reasoning is that if it’s quieter and somewhat less dangerous than high-powered rifles the townspeople wouldn’t be up in arms (or bows) and of course hunters would be happy to have an extra season — it looks like a win-win. Except maybe for the deer.

Wildlife agencies just don’t get it. There is a growing segment of the population that sees sentient creatures as more than commodities, renewable resources and/or targets for hunters. Deer are warm-blooded creatures with central nervous systems very similar to dogs and cats.

Communities have been struggling for decades with problems associated with overpopulation of unwanted and/or uncared for dogs and cats. And the sad reality is that most often the ultimate solution is death. But municipalities mandate that these deaths be humane. I don’t think there is any question that it would be much more cost effective if animal control officers simply opened fire with bows and arrows anytime a stray animal was seen. But for some reason we have decided that these particular sentient creatures are deserving of a more humane demise.

There is nothing humane about being killed with an arrow. To get an idea, look at these quotes from bow hunters:

• “The rule of thumb has long been that we should wait 30 to 45 minutes on heart and lung hits, an hour or more on a suspected liver hit, eight to 12 hours on paunch hits, and that we should follow up immediately on hindquarter and other muscle hits, to keep the wound open and bleeding.” Glenn Helgeland, Fins and Feathers, Winter 1987.

• “For a bow hunter to easily recover a wounded deer, the blood loss must be extensive. A deer will have to lose at least 35 percent of its total blood volume for the hunter to recover it rapidly.” Rob Wegner, Deer and Deer Hunting, August 1991.

There are a couple of other problems that plague bowhunting. One is wound rate and the other is success rate. There is a good deal of controversy regarding the wound rate (number of deer hit but not recovered) associated with bowhunting. Many hunters argue that anti-hunting organizations are responsible for inflated wound rates.

However, university studies and hunting publications have noted the high wound rate, according to a 1996 study by bowhunter Dr. Ed Ashby:

• Survey by Deer and Deer Hunting Magazine: (N=2, 103): 1.13 deer wounded for each deer killed.

• Gayle Wescott of Michigan State University: observed one deer wounded for each deer killed (N= 31 wounded, N= 31 killed).

Municipalities will likely be in hot water with their citizenry if that deer in the headlights has arrows protruding from it.

The actual success rate of bowhunters could present a dilemma for town fathers as well. North Carolina does not keep statistics regarding the success rate of bow hunters, but most of the states I found that did have data reported around a 20 percent or less success rate. This includes states like Ohio that allow crossbows as well as longbows. The Ohio data for 2001 was: “Of the 155,000 archery participants, 70,000 used a crossbow, 55,000 use a vertical bow and 30,000 used both. Of seniors who apply for and receive a free license, 4,000 used a crossbow, 1,000 used a vertical bow and 1,000 used both. Success rates for 2001 were identical for crossbow hunters and vertical bow hunters at 14 percent.”

If the problem with urban deer/human conflicts is created by an overpopulation of deer, there is a question of how successful bow hunters would be at lowering that population.

The problem with bow hunting or any other form of killing urban and suburban deer is that it doesn’t address the root cause of the problem — high deer population densities in and around these areas. Next week we will look at new management techniques proposed by some hunters and wildlife biologists that may hold promise in ameliorating this root cause.

(Don Hendershot can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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