By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Participants in Front Royal's first organized attempt to limit its booming deer population through bow hunting are calling their effort a success.
A one-month trial ended March 31 with 25 deer killed by archers with Suburban White Tail Management of Northern Virginia, Inc., a non-profit deer management and culling organization authorized by the town council. Whit Wagner, one of Suburban White Tail's leaders, said he is optimistic that the group will conduct an expanded effort in September when hunting may resume under terms of a state-issued permit.
Wagner said eight archers from Suburban Whitetail zeroed in on the Leach Run stream valley area and achieved their initial goal of killing 10 deer in the first week. After that, they reset the goal to 20.
"We ended up with 25, which really put a dent in the Leach Run area," Wagner said.
Suburban Whitetail serves as an agent for the Police Department and town manager, which administer the deer management program under a permit issued by the Virginia Department of Gaming and Inland Fisheries. Police Lt. Clint Keller, who was one of Suburban Whitetails bow hunters and an organizer of the program, said he was also pleased with the early results.
"It was excellent," Keller said. "I was really surprised at the community support for the program, and how they accepted it and took it under the wings."
The clients included 28 landowners who asked the town and Suburban Whitetail for help in ridding their property of deer. Wagner, who is Suburban Whitetail's western counties coordinator, said six of the 28 properties were deemed unsuitable for hunting but are still available for tracking and retrieving downed deer that were shot on neighbors' land.
Suburban Whitetail's archers reach agreements with property owners on the conditions under which they will hunt deer. On the appointed day and time, the archers take their place in perches 12 to 20 high feet in trees and wait for deer to come into range, Wagner said.
"We have to shoot down rather than out so we can recover our arrows," Wagner said.
He said the Leach Run neighborhood was overrun before the archers arrived. The 25 deer killed were only a small part of a total of 346 the archers counted on the properties they hunted, Wagner said.
"We actually saw deer bedding in a carport," Wagner said. "We never saw them again after we started hunting. Once we started hunting, they went back into their natural environment."
Keller said the deer population is in no danger of running out of food sources, but the high numbers constitute a nuisance to town residents "who don't want their flowers eaten" or the traffic hazards posed by wandering animals.
"We can feed a lot of deer in town, but how much do people living here want to deal with the property damage to their shrubs and vehicles?" Keller said.
Wagner said the deer also pose a risk of transmitting lyme disease through ticks that come into contact with humans.
Most of the deer killed by the bow hunters were given to a statewide charity that processes venison and distributes it to needy households, Wagner said.
Keller said local archers are still needed to help Suburban Whitetail for the next round
of hunting in September. Those wishing to join the organization must be at least 18 years old; have previous big game bow hunting experience; have completed several bow hunter courses; and pass a shooting proficiency test. Other requirements also must be met.
Property owners seeking Suburban Whitetail's services or bow hunters wishing to join can learn more by visiting the organization's website at www.deerdamage.com or the town's website at www.frontroyalva.com.