Bowhunters will be permitted in county parks from the first Saturday in September to the last Saturday in March. The hunting can only take place up to 30 minutes before sunrise and 30 minutes after sunset, Monday through Saturday.
Fairfax County wildlife biologist Vicky Monroe explained the county’s deer management program at a public meeting Aug. 9 at the Mason District Government Center. Additional meetings are scheduled in each district. The Braddock meeting, covering bowhunting in Lake Accotink Park will be held Aug. 24, 7 p.m., at the Braddock District Government Center.
The county uses three methods to control deer: nighttime sharpshooting by members of the police SWAT team, controlled daytime hunts by police officers, and bowhunting by community volunteers. This year, the bowhunting program program will take place in 20 county parks, up from 11 last year and two when the program started in 2009.
The only park affected in the Mason District is the Accotink Stream Valley, and only bowhunting will be allowed in that park.
Last year, a total of 815 deer were harvested, the largest on record since the deer management program began in 1998. The archery program netted 452 deer. Sharpshooting operations conducted at 15 parks yielded 226 deer last year, and managed hunts were conducted at four parks with a yield of 137 deer.
According to Monroe, archery is the most effective and humane method of controlling the deer population. With archery, fewer deer are wounded and run off (3.3 percent last year), compared to sharpshooting (6.4 percent) and managed hunts (20 percent).
Killing off some deer is necessary because the deer population is way in excess of what the environment can handle and because of the problems caused by deer, including traffic accidents, damage to plants, destruction of bird and other wildlife habitat, and Lyme disease, Monroe says. She estimates there are at least 26,000 deer in Fairfax County.
To participate in the archery program, people have to join or form a group with 10 to 50 members. The deadline for registering a group was Aug. 5. Twenty-three groups applied, and 20 will be selected—one for each park in the program. A group is assigned to a particular park for the whole season.
The best way to make sure the hunts are as humane as possible is to “make sure you have skilled hunters,” Monroe says. To be approved for the program, bowhunter must pass an archery test and attend a two-hour safety session.
Bowhunters must follow strict rules: Hunters have to be 50 feet from trail systems and 100 feet from park boundaries. They are only allowed to shoot dear that are standing still. The hunting must be done from tree stands at least 12 feet high. The use of baiting or scents is not allowed, although hunters can use horns. Each group has to purchase $1 million in liability insurance, which costs about $230 a year.
Hunters must record details of every deer shot, including the weight, sex, and injuries. Each arrow has a unique code and must be accounted for and recovered. Approved hunters receive a county permit and parking pass that must be visible in their cars during a hunt.
Most of the meat from harvested deer goes to food banks for the needy. A small amount goes to the volunteers, and coyotes and foxes usually get some, too. It’s a crime to sell deer meet to the public.
Other ways of controlling deer, such as fertility controls, are too costly and are less effective, Monroe says. With that method, deer have to be tranquilized and given an injection by hand every year, at a cost of $500 to $1,000 per deer.