Deer damage activists defend extended hunting in Va.

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (WUSA9) -- Activists concerned about deer damage are defending a new extended urban bow hunting season in Northern Virginia after WUSA9's business and consumer reporter Jessica Doyle raised questions about culling deer in heavily populated suburbs without warning.

"I'm furious," Doyle said. "The worst part about it is, I would have liked to have known they would be out there doing this." Doyle was concerned about the safety of her 8-year-old daughter after a dying deer turned up in her yard in the Sleepy Hollow section of Falls Church on Good Friday. She granted permission for two hunters to come collect the deer after they shot it in a neighbor's backyard and tracked it to her property. Lots in the closely packed neighborhood are from a quarter to a half acre.

Virginia Game officials made an unprecedented extension of a special urban bow hunting season into late April in Northern Virginia because the animals have overpopulated the area. Bowhunters are allowed to shoot deer with archery equipment on private property until April 26th with the landowners permission. There are no requirements to notify neighbors, according to Lee Walker of the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Hunting is allowed on any size property, as long as arrows do not fly into a neighbor's yard without permission. Landowners may also apply for special deer damage permits to hunt beyond the regular season, Walker said.

The state's regulations contrast with Fairfax County's Deer Management Program, which does notify residents and citizens when deer hunts are conducted on public park properties. Those hunts on more than 80 parcels of public land ended Jan. 25.

Much of the private land hunting in suburban yards in Fairfax County is conducted by volunteer members of the non-profit Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia, which is dedicated to assisting landowners concerned about deer damage. Doyle's encounter was with two members of the group.

"Our continuing goal is to be as discreet as possible," said group spokesman Gregg Brown in an email to WUSA9. "Notification of neighbors is something that our client may or may not do depending on the circumstances. We have worked with neighbors at a clients request in the past, but this is not routine," Brown continued.

"Making sure that the property is suitable for hunting is our key concern," Brown said.

Members of Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia must pass a background check and a shooting accuracy test before they are accepted. The group, founded in 1997, donates most of the meat taken by members to needy families.

Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia is regarded as ethical, safe and dependable, according to retired environmental scientist Jerry Peters of Great Falls who says the native plants on his property have been decimated by deer.

Peters has organized neighbors to contract with the group for deer extermination. Now Peters has purchased his own cross-bow and shoots from his back deck within view of his neighbor's home. He has killed one deer so far.

"We're shooting from 20- to a maximum of 30-yards," Peters said, noting that all shooting is done from an elevated position like a deck or a tree-stand downward towards the ground. "It's not unsafe for people or pets."

Peters points to state hunting accident statistics showing that no bystander in Virginia has ever been injured in an archery hunting incident since record keeping began in 1959.


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