City mulls archery hunting for deer

COVINGTON -- A growing number of deer in the city has prompted the Covington City Council to consider an ordinance to allow hunters to use archery equipment to help thin the wildlife population.

The City Council agreed by consensus vote Monday to move forward on drafting an ordinance to allow bow-and-arrow hunting in certain areas of the city. Councilwoman Hawnethia Williams was the only one to vote against the move.

Covington resident and former director of the Wildlife Resources Division of the state Department of Natural Resources David Waller requested Monday that the City Council consider adopting this measure as a safe, but necessary, way of reducing the number of deer in the city.

Waller explained that he noticed the uptick in the deer population when he realized that deer were eating just about everything he planted in the yard of his Crestview Drive home.

"I used to have a beautiful yard, but now it's a cemetery. The deer have wiped it out," he said.

Waller said the problem is not only with the growing number of deer, but also the behaviors of the animals.

"We now have an urban population of deer who are used to living among people and have no natural predators," he said.

Along with more frustrated gardeners, a growing population of deer will result in more vehicle collisions involving the animals, and more instances of ticks and Lyme disease, Waller said.

So the choice, as he sees it, is for the city to allow licensed archery hunters to kill deer in a responsible manner or else ultimately be forced to hire sharpshooters to take them out.

Mayor Kim Carter asked Waller about the safety of bow hunting, especially in residential areas.

Waller pointed out that he has no intention of hunting on his property, but it would be useful for those who live on several acres of land.

Waller said bow hunting would not be allowed within 100 yards of a residence, only licensed hunters would be permitted to hunt deer during bow hunting season, typically between September and January. Furthermore, only hunters who have secured written permission of the homeowner would be allowed to hunt on property.

Waller added that in his 34 years with the WRD when he oversaw 1 million acres of wildlife very few accidents involved bow hunters, and "99 percent of the time" those were due to hunters falling out of trees.

Most of the City Council members agreed that the deer population in the city has increased; however, Councilwoman Williams said she would like more time to think about allowing bow hunting in the city limits.

"I also have seen quite a few deer, but I also have concerns," she said. "Statistics in the past don't always determine the future, and I don't want to open a can of worms of people who want to try this. We have destroyed the deer habitat and that's why they have come in the city. We have done this."