- Updated: 18 March 2012
- Published: 18 March 2012
- Hits: 1129
A very good thing is happening in Fairfax County: Bowhunting is being recognized as an effective tool to help manage an ever growing deer herd.
The first fatal deer-vehicle collision in Fairfax County occurred in October 1997. This tragic accident highlighted the concern of many residents that, without natural predators, the local deer population had become overabundant. A Deer Management Program was subsequently developed, but relied primarily on managed gun hunts and sharpshooting operations using specially trained police officers to cull the herds.
Archery was first approved as a deer management tool by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and Fairfax County Park Authority Board in October 2000, and has been re-approved each year. A pilot archery program implemented in fiscal year 2002 and 2003 was not determined to be successful, and the outlook to use bowhunting to assist in the Deer Management Program was bleak.
Fortunately a new Fairfax County Wildlife Biologist, Ms. Vicky Monroe, brought new ideas and perspectives and developed a new Archery Program. Ms. Monroe developed a program that was implemented in fiscal year 2010 with the superior skill of two archery groups: one was made up primarily of archers from the Belvoir Bowhunters and the other was Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia (SWMNV). Colvin Run Stream Valley (71 acres) and Laurel Hill (835 acres) was the two park sites selected for the new archery program. The harvest rate was 75 deer from these sites. The wounding rate was extremely low at 3.84% (3 of 78 deer). As a result of an extremely successful first season, a total of 10 park sites were opened this season, with ten qualified Archery Groups participating in the Archery Program.
The primary objective of the Fairfax County Deer Management Program is deer population control on public parklands; therefore, emphasis is placed on harvesting anterless deer. Hunters use DPOP tags, and there is no bag limit. Participating hunters are asked to ensure low wounding rates by restricting their shots to high percentage, humane kill shots. Hunters can “earn” an opportunity to take an antlered buck after they harvest three antlerless deer, but are required to use a state-issued either sex or antlered buck tag when they harvest an antlered buck.
One aspect that I’ve particularly enjoyed as a participant in both the pilot and this year’s hunts is the fact that our bowhunters by and large have really gotten along with the numerous other groups that use the parks. I’ve had several casual conversations with cyclists, Frisbee golfers, hikers and dog walkers and have yet to have any sense of hostility toward bowhunting. Most recognize that the deer populations are too high in these parks and need to be managed in order not harm other wildlife by over browsing or injuring drivers on the highways adjacent to the parks with potentially fatal collisions.
If you are interested in participating in next year’s hunts, more information can be found at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/living/animals/wildlife/archery/urban-archery-infairfaxcounty.htm.
Good Hunting! Bob