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Hunting effort targeting deer in Front Royal

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL - A program designed to help curtail the urban deer population in town appears to be working.

Town Council heard a report this week from Whit Wagner, a representative with Suburban Whitetail Management of Northern Virginia, on the results of several hunting events held in Front Royal.

Town Manager Steve Burke advised Friday that all hunting is prohibited in Front Royal. The town authorized whitetail management to act as its agent to implement the local wildlife management program.

The group has held 1,369 hunts totaling 4,026 hours in March 2012 and during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons, Wagner said. Hunters saw 5,601 deer, hit 333 and recovered 311 for a 94-percent recovery rate.

"Just because a deer is hit doesn't mean it's going to die," Wagner noted. "If it's nicked it's a hit. We recover a majority of the deer we shoot."

Wagner told council two years ago the program likely would achieve that recovery rate.

Front Royal became involved with the Lorton-based group in 2012. The effort comes at no cost to taxpayers, Wagner pointed out. Of the 25 hunters who participated in the hunts, 18 live in Front Royal or Warren County.

"It was amazing how receptive and helpful the people and the residents in the town of Front Royal were," Wagner recalled. "They even helped us with the scouting. They would call or email and say 'hey, the deer are back' and we would go and we would solve their problem."

Mayor Timothy Darr said the program seems to be successful.

"I see less when I go down the streets so I think it is being effective," Darr said.

Hunters in the 2012-2013 season saw an average 5.28 deer per hunt as they stood in tree stands, Wagner said. That average fell by nearly half in the 2013-2014 season to 2.8 deer per hunt.

"This last year we were able to get into the more difficult places," Wagner said, noting that hunters took about six deer off of a property on Main Street. "We're moving into some of the areas because we're able to get more track-and-retrieve around and we're almost coming right into the middle of town."

The organization plans to target additional areas in town next year such as behind a nearby ballfield and adjacent properties, Wagner said. Hunters need 100 yards for a safe track-and-retrieve. The group also now has permission to hunt near the Shenandoah River and plan to go to areas south of Va. 55.

Hunters lost 10 arrows, each of which the group numbers, but recovered 97 percent of those shot. The group used metal detectors to find the missing arrows.

Hunters donated 192 of the 311 deer shot, or 62 percent, to charity. Participants took 244 does and 67 bucks. They only harvested 18 antlered bucks.

Wagner pointed out that no incidents occurred that would disrupt any of the hunts or have an impact on residents.

"Most of you all probably didn't even know we were hunting," Wagner said.

Council allowed the group of hunters to take other animals midway through the season. Hunters also harvested seven groundhogs, one fox and one raccoon. They harvested no coyotes. Hunters may harvest more of the other animals next year once they obtain permission to hunt and collect them.

Police Chief Keith Shifflett asked about bear sightings. Wagner said hunters saw several bears in September but could not harvest them out of season without a permit. Wagner said he knows the town has a problem with bears.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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