Deer Hunting in the "Burbs"

Perched 16 feet above the ground in a white oak tree, I closed my eyes to take in the sounds around me. I heard someone cutting grass for possibly the last time of the season. I also heard several dogs barking. Based on the time of day, I guessed they were welcoming kids who were getting off school buses. I thought I heard the "tink" of an aluminum bat meeting a baseball on a nearby Little League field.

Another familiar sound, the soft, rhythmic crunching of dry leaves on the forest floor, suddenly grabbed my attention. The white-tailed deer had to hear the sounds from the nearby subdivision, but he seemed to ignore them. Yet when the young buck neared my ambush point, he quickly focused on the slight squeak my treestand made as I shifted my weight. As he neared my shooting lanes, he seemed aware that a predator shared the woodlot with him this evening. What he didn't know was that I wasn't a threat to him. Although armed with a bow and arrow, I was after only antlerless deer, unless a truly exceptional buck presented an opportunity.

Targeting urban deer seems to contradict the classic image we have of deer hunting in the big woods. Yet more and more hunters are finding pockets of good habitat and, sometimes, exceptional hunting within municipal boundaries.

As a wildlife damage biologist in an urban region, I often receive requests from landowners for deer hunters willing to help them remove deer that are causing damage to their crops. However, finding the right hunter for a specific landowner can be difficult. Many hunters are not willing to harvest as many deer as the law allows or enough to truly help landowners control damage caused by deer. They prefer classic hunts in rural or heavily forested areas. To them, actually harvesting deer is a secondary consideration.

That's too bad, because we have plenty of deer in urban and suburban areas. Many factors contribute to the high populations. The popular practice of including forested acres in subdivisions, corporate campuses and municipal parks often make the landscape appealing to deer, which thrive in "edge" habitat. Deer also abound where manicured lawns, ornamental plantings and fruit-bearing trees and shrubs dominate the landscape.

In many cases, deer are protected by municipal ordinances prohibiting the use of firearms or archery equipment.

The combination of protection from hunters and other