When I heard about the Wake Forest Commissioners urban archery season proposal, I was skeptical.
Deer are a problem in the town, and to deal with it, leaders propose allowing hunters to go after these animals with bows and arrows. The plan would restrict hunters to five-acre pieces of land, and they would have to be at least 150 feet from houses or roads and 300 feet from schools, churches and parks.
One lone speaker came out to the public hearing in late December and voiced his opposition. Mark Rosche said that the rules couldnt keep people safe and that the plan brings bow hunters dangerously close to the population of Wake Forest.
I agreed. But I wanted to go into town and see what people there thought. I figured the consensus would be that accidents could happen. Thats just what Laura Cashwell, owner of For Old Times Sake antique store, told me.
She did acknowledge, however, that something needs to be done about the deer.
Ive got mixed feelings, she said. Im a little skeptical about it being done in town just because I dont want anyone being hurt.
But others were adamant that bow hunting was a good idea.
I asked a group of guys, hunters themselves, in Wake Forest Coffee Co. about their feelings.
Clay Steelman, 21, thought it would help thin out the deer population.
Thats plenty of distance for a responsible bow hunter to survey the distance and know he isnt going to kill anybody, Steelman said of the 150- and 300-feet limits.
Ben Lumpkin, 29, thought Rosches objections to the plan didnt make much sense. Hes probably never shot a bow before, Lumpkin said.
And Tripp Jefferys, 17, works at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and says deer are a menace. Theyre destroying a lot of flowers and stuff on campus, he said.
Jefferys has hunted with a bow before. If the commissioners go ahead with the plan, he says he will be going after the deer.
What everybody I talked with agreed on was that deer are a huge problem in Wake Forest.
We have a serious deer overpopulation problem, said Stephanie Alexander, a sales associate at The Cotton Company. You see it all the time with dead deer on the road.
She agreed that accidents might happen, but said nothing is 100 percent safe.
Its possible, but its also possible that deer could hit those same people, she said. Deer dont really leave cars undamaged.
Is distance enough?
The close proximity the plan allows worried Jeff Walker, an employee at For Old Times Sake.
One hundred and fifty feet doesnt sound like a lot to me, he said.
But the guys from the coffee shop pointed out to me that because deer hunters have to shoot from up in a stand at least 10 feet or higher, according to the commissioners plan there is almost no danger. The arrow would be shot down and would hit the ground long before it was a danger to any resident, they said.
If you do have to hunt from a stand or something, theres no issue here, Lumpkin said.
By the end of my totally unscientific opinion survey, I found myself thinking that maybe the bow-hunting plan wasnt such a bad one.
Will hunting help?
Now, whether it will actually help thin the deer population, that is another question. To figure that out, I went to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. According to the agency, about 1.25 million deer live in the state.
Thirty-four cities in North Carolina were listed in the 2012 Urban Archery Season Harvest. That means these are the cities that are doing what Wake Forest proposes. All together, those 34 cities racked up a grand total of 70 kills. Seventy out of 1.25 million doesnt seem like a lot to me, but if thats 70 fewer deer-car collisions, then it could be worth it.
Regardless of efficacy, I dont think the urban archery proposal poses much of a danger to residents.
How to finish?
One aspect of the plan does trouble me, however, and it is one that Rosche also brought up at the public hearing. Hunters wouldnt be allowed to chase wounded deer if they ran off the hunting ground. Instead, theyd need to rely on the police to intervene.
Ive never hunted, but even I know that its the hunters duty to finish what he or she starts. If a deer is wounded, the hunter cant let it run off, hurt, suffering and wild. He must go after and kill it. Not to mention the fact that this wrinkle would increase the burden on local police. The guys in the coffee shop agreed that this part of the plan didnt make an awful lot of sense.
Regardless, deer are a problem in Wake Forest, though perhaps, as Lumpkin proposes, other solutions exist.
Something needs to happen. My proposal is to stop overdevelopment, he said. But failing that, he said, As far as bow hunting goes, I think its a great idea.
The town commissioners are holding another public hearing Jan. 15. Only one person came out for the last one. Maybe some of you should head out this time and give the commissioners a wider cross section of thought to consider.