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Scott M

Strib Article on Bow hunting in Suburbs

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Scott M

By Kevin Duchschere, Star Tribune

White-tailed deer are sleek, elegant and graceful creatures. They are also fertile, ravenous and thickheaded -- especially around a highway.

"It's the North American mammal more responsible for deaths than any other; we run into them," said Bryan Leuth, urban area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Deer-car collisions injured almost 500 people and killed three in Minnesota last year. And as more fields and woods turn into subdivisions and open spaces continue to shrink, some metro-area suburbs and counties are turning to the ancient art of bowhunting to strike the right balance between deer as wildlife amenity and nuisance.

In recent years, more communities have enlisted Metro Bowhunters Resource Base, a nonprofit coalition of Minnesota archery groups that supplies qualified archers free of charge to thin out deer in urban areas.

The group, which has a membership of more than 500 archers, is involved with nearly 20 hunts this season in counties, cities and parks, said president Bob Whiting. Since 1995, he said, its archers have removed 2,000 deer at no cost to local governments.

"That's 2,000 deer that didn't get hit by cars," said Whiting, who estimates that the group's bowhunters take an average of 200 deer each year in the metro area.

Whiting said that hunters with Metro Bowhunters use deer stands, and they almost always get the deer with their first arrow. If a deer is wounded, he said, the hunter will track it to the property line and notify local authorities.

Animal rights advocates dislike bowhunting. They prefer nonlethal methods: planting greenery that doesn't attract deer, using roadside reflectors to discourage them from crossing highways, more use of contraception.

If lethal force must be used, better that it be guns than bows, said Michael Markarian, executive vice president of the Humane Society of the United States in Washington.

"Archery equipment is less fatal or efficient than a firearm," he said. "The animals are more likely to be wounded than to be dispatched quickly."

Most agree that sharpshooters using guns is the most effective way of controlling deer. But they're also noisy, intimidating and often expensive (many are paid $250 to $300 per deer). Birth control vaccine isn't foolproof and takes longer to yield results. Relocation is time-consuming and costly.

And while modern arrows are as deadly as bullets, hunting with bows is generally considered safer than guns because it must be done within 150 feet of the target.

A convert to bowhunting this year is Shorewood, one of several Lake Minnetonka communities where deer are rapidly multiplying. Last year the city used sharpshooters and police officers to remove deer on a private golf course.

"The only predator for deer are cars, and they do a lot of damage to property and gardens," said Mayor Chris Lizée. "I hit a deer a few years ago. It did $500 damage to the car, and the deer did not have insurance."

This time of year, through December, is prime time for deer-car collisions. That's because it's mating season, and deer are more active.

The DNR recommends no more than 20 deer per square mile in urban areas, Leuth said. Some suburbs average up to 80 deer per square mile.

"We're finding that deer adapt well to living in suburban situations because of a lack of predators and good access to food," he said. "Deer have adapted to living with people."

Ramsey County, which typically has 1,200 to 1,500 deer within its borders, coordinates bowhunts during deerhunting season in open spaces in New Brighton, Shoreview, White Bear Township, Vadnais Heights, Maplewood and St. Paul.

The county conducts a survey each year to determine if the deer population is large enough to justify a hunt, using a figure of about 25 deer per mile of habitat as the threshold. The county then works with bowhunters from Metro Bowhunters and stages hunts in the 11 parks within its area.

Notices are placed around the park and in some cases the park is closed during a hunt. "We haven't had any issue with the park users or homeowners since we started," said Ramsey County natural resources specialist John Moriarty.

It's similar in Anoka County, he said, except that the county holds drawings for hunters.

For 30 years North Oaks has controlled its bountiful white-tailed deer population mostly by trapping and then shooting them, the first metro-area community to do so, Mayor Thomas Watson said. The city uses large Havahart traps, which capture the animals without harming them. The meat goes to food shelves or veterans groups.

In 16 years, North Oaks has steadily whittled down a herd of nearly 1,000 to the current level of 150, he said. But the community considered and rejected bowhunting, Watson said. "Residents were very uncomfortable with the idea of bow-and-arrow hunters going through your property."

In 2002, Burnsville decided to control its herds through bowhunting and special rifle hunts.

"Deer management was controversial then, but the last couple years it has been very minimal, one or two negative phone calls a season," said Daryl Jacobson, the city's water resources specialist. "Things are working well. There haven't been safety issues."

Burnsville is hoping to pare its deer population to 86 to 146 deer citywide, but it has a ways to go: An aerial survey projected a population this fall of 241. To get there, the City Council this fall opened up more property for archers to shoot their bows by reducing the distance they need to be from property lines. That means archers will need at least three acres to hunt, Jacobson said.

Inver Grove Heights took the opposite approach this month, when the City Council tightened its bowhunting ordinance and reduced the areas in which archers may operate. The ordinance will be reviewed after the hunting season ends Dec. 31.

Starting Nov. 1, the city will prohibit archers from hunting on their own land if they have less than 2.5 acres and permit hunting on 5-acre parcels only with a city permit and permission of all property owners

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DRH1175

Gotta love the Humane Society of America Stating "Archery equipment is less fatal or efficient than a firarm. The animals are more likely to be wounded than to be dispatched quickly" They are full of BullS**t That statement just gets me going. As far as the bow hunts go heck yeah I wish more citys would jump on board.

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