Get out bows, arrows

Published 8:52 pm Tuesday, January 14, 2020

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

The town of Smithfield is taking a pointed approach to curtailing the swelling deer population in Smithfield.

Namely by updating its 2012 ordinance pertaining to urban archery which, technically, was only written to permit that activity for one 2012-2013 season, according to town officials. 

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Perhaps those with archery skills à la Robin Hood will be the ones to bring the herds down to size. During urban archery season, that is. 

On Jan. 7, Smithfield Town Council voted to officiate an ordinance permitting archery hunting that was initially adopted in 2012. 

Town Attorney William Riddick said that that when the previous urban archery ordinance was adopted, it was meant to run as a “test period,” but has been in effect and posted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries ever since it was passed. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The original ordinance passed in July of 2012 and states that “Urban Archers season is hereby authorized from Sept. 1, -Oct.  5, 2012 and from Jan. 7-March 30, 2013” in the town of Smithfield. 

The new ordinance states that “Urban Archers season is hereby authorized during the dates as may be prescribed by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries for Urban Archery Seasons within the Commonwealth of Virginia as they may change from year to year.”

In 2020, Urban Archery season in the commonwealth runs from Jan. 5 through March 29, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. 

According to Mayor Carter Williams, the deer population in town has grown to uncontrollable numbers, and they are no longer afraid of humans. 

It’s not uncommon to see deer downtown, especially after Windsor Castle Park was built. Not long ago, two deer went as far as to jump through the plate glass window of an empty shop on Main Street before high-tailing it out of there. 

In June of last year, roughly 20 acres of sunflowers, planted at Windsor Castle Park pro bono by local farmer Dean Stallings, were nibbled down to the stubs by the pesky herbivores. 

The town’s ordinance has a number of stipulations, including that archery hunting can only occur in certain zones, hunting is restricted to parcels of private property where written permission has been obtained from the landowner and hunting is prohibited within 100 feet of school or church property. 

Zones where urban archery is permitted include the town’s community conservation and environmental conservation zones. 

The town’s ordinance also states that only antlerless deer may be hunted, which is also a stipulation of the statewide urban archery rules and regulations. 

Instituted by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in 2002, urban archery season was designed to reduce human/deer conflicts in urban areas that act as sanctuaries for deer populations because of firearm restrictions. 

Since then, over fifty localities have taken part in urban archery seasons in Virginia, including Charlottesville, Blacksburg and Richmond. 

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Deer Project Coordinator Nelson Lafon said in an interview on Jan. 10 that the focus on antlerless deer targets does particularly, which can give birth to two to three fawns a year. 

Since does make up the vast majority of antlerless deer — a category that also includes some juvenile bucks or bucks that have recently shed their antlers — controlling their numbers via an urban archery season can help to mitigate burgeoning deer populations, according to Lafon. 

He added that targeting bucks instead of does wouldn’t come close to having the same population control effects, as intended by an urban archery season.