North Wilkesboro commissioners are considering changing town ordinances to allow deer hunting, with bow and arrow, within town limits.

Board members are considering changes because of complaints from residents about the impact of deer within town limits. Mayor Robert Johnson said that there had been several vehicle wrecks involving deer, and people had complained about deer eating plants and vegetables in gardens.

Sgt. Steve Bullins and District 7 Wildlife Biologist Chris Kreh of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission talked with commissioners about items to consider before allowing deer hunting within town limits. Hunting of any kind is prohibited within town limits now.

Commissioner Bert Hall said, “We’re interested in controlling the deer population rather than the hunting aspect.”

Board member Debbie Ferguson added, “We don’t mean to seem cruel, but people are hitting deer with their cars, and their yards and gardens are being ruined.”

Bullins explained that Elkin—one of the first towns in the state to allow bow hunting within town limits—“had to pass an ordinance to allow bow hunting. That ordinance can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make it.”

Kreh added, “North Wilkesboro is not the only town with a problem of deer overpopulation. It’s up to the town to say how many is too many, and it’s up to the citizens to decide how many deer they want to put up with.”

Kreh and Bullins said that it takes lethal action to lower the population of deer, with Bullins adding, “the cheapest way to do that is to allow hunters to do it for you.”

Kreh said that 44 towns in the state currently allow bow hunting within town limits. He suggested making a town ordinance simple, adding “we already have hunting rules in place.”

Deer hunters could only hunt on land with the written permission of the landowner. If a deer was injured and ran onto adjoining property, the hunter would have to have permission of the second land owner to retrieve the deer.

The two wildlife officials  agreed that there was no way to make hunting completely safe, but they said there had been “thousands of hunters within town limits with bows, and there has never been a report of an adjacent property owner being injured.”

Bullins said “rifle and bow hunters are different. You don’t just pick up a bow and go hunting. You have to practice. Bow hunters are careful.

“When I was in Elkin, I wrote citations for bow hunters. They were only because the hunters had bagged more than their limits. There were no other tickets written.”

If the town passes an ordinance, hunters could use bows and arrows in town from early September to early November (Sept. 7-Nov 8 this year). The town could also have a special urban season from mid January to mid-February.

Use of crossbows

When Mayor Robert Johnson asked about the use of crossbows and the added power of those weapons, the agents said that crossbow hunters are as safe as regular bow hunters.

Bullins added, “You need to remember many deer hunters are going to still want to hunt in the country. If you have an urban season, it will be in the coldest part of the year, and most people will be indoors. Even hunters won’t want to stay outside that long in bitter cold weather to get one more deer.”

The two added that the majority of hunting accidents involve hunters falling out of tree stands.

Johnson said, “Deer are smart. They know that they have a safe haven in town. The deer are in Finley Park year round, and that’s where most of the complaints are coming from.”

The wildlife officials said town residents could bait their land to attract deer during bow season.

Bullins reminded the board members that hunters could only hunt where they have written permission, and they will be guilty of trespassing if they go on private property.

“We’ll be checking too,” he said. “We’ll have a small area to check in the winter, so we will be patrolling in the area.

Commissioner Bart Hayes said that there was a growing problem with coyotes in the town. There are also several large populations of groundhogs in urban areas.

Town officials suggested having a public information session on the proposed hunting amendment during the Tuesday, Jan. 7 town meeting. The meeting would probably be held at Benton Hall or the Stone Center for the Performing Arts in order to accommodate a larger audience.

The wildlife officials will attend that meeting. Johnson suggested also asking mayors from towns with a similar ordinance, such as Elkin, to attend and speak at the meeting,

If the town plans to adopt an ordinance, an application for permission to hunt within town limits, plus a town map, must be submitted to the Wildlife Resources Commission by April 1.

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