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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Deer hunting in Annandale starts Sept. 7

Roundtree Park on Annandale Road.
Only two people attended the public meeting on Fairfax County’s deer hunting program Aug. 20. Maybe the low turnout had to do with the inconvenient time, 6 p.m., and remote location at the Fairfax County South County Center on Richmond Highway, which is nearly as far as Mount Vernon.

The only other public meeting, at the Fairfax County Government Center in Fairfax last week, also had sparse attendance.

And that’s too bad, because this is an issue of great concern to Annandale/Mason residents. For the first time, the county is allowing the use of archery to kill deer in what’s been identified as the “Annandale cluster,” which includes Mason District Park, Holmes Run Stream Valley, Roundtree Park, the White Gardens Park, and the Lillian Carey Park. [The area approved for deer hunting along Holmes Run is north of Lake Barcroft, not along the trail adjacent to Roundtree.]

At the Aug. 20 meeting, Jeremy Everitts, assistant wildlife biologist in the Fairfax County Animal Services Division, and Kristen Sinclair, senior natural resource specialist with the Fairfax County Park Authority, gave a lengthy presentation on the county’s deer management program just for me and the other attendee, an Annandale resident who likes to fish for trout in the Accotink stream valley.

There was no special reason for expanding the archery program to the “Annandale cluster” other than the general problems caused by deer, including habitat destruction, deer/vehicle collisions, and the spread of Lyme disease from deer ticks, Sinclair said.

Only one hunting group has been approved for each park where hunting is allowed. A group called United Whitetail Archers of North America has been approved to hunt in the Annandale cluster.

The 2013-14 deer hunting season runs for more than five months, from Sept. 7 through Feb. 15.  Deer hunting is allowed from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset six days a week. Hunting is not allowed on Sundays.

The parks will be open during this period, which means archers will be hunting deer at the same time as people will be in the parks walking dogs, birdwatching, running, and biking. That won’t be a problem, Everitts said, because the hunters will be “discreet and out of sight” and people enjoying the parks “won’t even be aware that hunters are there. It will be going on in the background.”

While county staff insist the use of archery to kill deer is safe, wildlife advocates have raised lots of concerns about the effectiveness and the potential risks to park users.

According to Sinclair, deer hunting isn’t allowed near athletic fields or playgrounds. Hunters are restricted to areas 50 feet from a trail and 100 feet from a park’s boundary.

The Animal Services Division sent notification letters about the archery program to about 10,000 people countywide, but the letters only went to people who live within two houses of an affected park. Signs are expected to be posted at park entrances and trail heads next week warning people of deer hunting.

Hunters must shoot deer from an elevated platform in the trees at least 15 feet off the ground. They are supposed to shoot deer that are no more than 20 yards away and must shoot downward with the ground as a backdrop. Hunters are required to carry special ID cards and display parking passes on the dashboards of their cars.

To be approved for the program, hunters must have “high standards of ethical conduct and marksmanship,” Everitts said. They have two chances a year to pass a test that consists of shooting three arrows into a nine-inch pie plate at 20 yards.

Each hunting group must have a person in charge responsible for submitting weekly hunting and incident reports and a hunting log. Incident reports cover lost arrows, wounded deer that run away, poaching, and any attempts to harass hunters or sabotage their activities. It’s a misdemeanor to interfere with hunting, Everitts said.

Hunters are also expected to report biological data, including the age, weight, and gender of deer and whether they are pregnant, lactating, or diseased. There is no restriction on killing young deer, but it’s preferable to target does rather than bucks. Last year, only around 30 bucks were killed, compared to around 546 does.

Hunters are responsible for removing any deer they kill—and are supposed to do it discreetly. They can keep the venison or donate it to Hunters for the Hungry.

The first year of the archery program, 2009-10, there were just two pilot sites with 50-plus hunters, and 75 deer were killed. The program was expanded to 11 sites, with 452 deer killed, in 2010-11 and to 20 sites with 714 deer killed in 2011-12. The annual wounding rate (deer who were shot but ran away) is between 3 and 4 percent. 

A total of 697 deer were killed last year in 21 sites, including 41 deer killed in Accotink Stream Valley North/Eakin Park by a hunting group called Red’s Team and 20 deer in Wakefield Park/Americana Park by Northern Virginia Conservation Archers.

The main reason for the archery program is to reduce the deer population, which is way over the biological carrying capacity. With a healthy population of deer, there are 15 to 20 deer per square mile. In Fairfax County there are 60 to 100, and in some places, as many as 400 per square mile.

According to Everitts, deer are most active during the early morning and dusk, so that’s when most hunting will take place. They’re also more likely to be visible earlier in the day if it’s going to rain or snow, and they are more active during the breeding period, which runs from late October through late November.


  1. Yum! We must cull these Lyme infested deer as they are a huge health threat! Human life must take precendece over animal life 100 times out of 100, it is just natures way.

    1. So you think Lyme disease comes from deers. Do your research and have some cojones to actual say who you are.

  2. Let me get this straight - we are supposed to be safe because they cannot be within 50 feet of a trail or 100 feet of a boundary, yet they cannot be allowed to shoot at a deer that is more than 20 yards (60 feet) away? And it's a misdemeanor to interfere with hunting? Does that include making noise so they know you're not a deer? A 3.8 percent escape rate with injuries means around 25 deer run off with injuries from non-lethal strikes. Early morning and dusk, when most hunting will occur is often when a lot of kids are going to and from school and after school activities in the fall. This is not a good plan for an urbanized area. I come from NE PA, and I've seen what archers can do and how far an arrow can travel when a compound bow is used, which I'm assuming these hunters will have to be using in order to be successful. I will be staying away from the listed parks, as will my sons.

  3. Hunters are allowed to use crossbows or compound bows. It's unfortunate the county is putting their goal to kill deer above people's safety and many people will avoid using the parks, which are taxpayer funded. If people object, county officials will produce survey results showing a majority of residents support deer hunting in the parks.

  4. ???/concerns about this program, call/email the Fx Cty Wildlife Biologist...Vicky Montroe, 703-246-6868,
    as per Fx Cty website.

  5. This appears to be another FFX County Stupidism..............hello, anyone in the County working today with a full deck?

  6. update to earlier of Fx Cty Wildlife Biologist is Vicky Monroe (as indicated in her email address)...typo error

  7. I joined several neighbors in having hunters come to our woods, where we have virtually NO native plants anymore. The deer have absolutely destroyed our local native flora. The deer in our woods were emaciated, which makes them more susceptible to disease and ticks, which jeopardizes all of our health.

    People who are upset about hunters in our parks need to realize that they hunt when virtually no other citizens are using them, i.e., dawn and dusk.

    Also, dying from an arrow wound is a lot quicker than bleeding out from a run-in with a car, and certainly less painful than starving to death.

    Until/unless an effective, economically feasible contraceptive method is identified and implanted, what else are we supposed to do?

    1. I saw three deer in my yard - they were a beautiful family. A doe, a buck and a young one. They were not emaciated and I could care less that they ate my hostas. They are God's creatures, not something to be slaughtered in the parks where many adults run in the early morning hours. This is a disgrace. If I see a hunter in the park I will be sure to shout and disrupt murdering the deer in this cruel way. What a pity! No one in the County told any of us of this five-month slaughter. Why didn't they tell us? Because they knew we wouldn't want this going on while our neighbors use these parklands. PLEASE PROTEST!

    2. and I bet you are a vegetarian right? Grow up and educate yourself..

  8. Last year I frequently ran early morning along the the Cross County Trail from Theiss Park toward Annandale. This was one of the sites in 2012/2013. I also frequently run the Long Branch Trail until it connects with the Cross County before Accotink. I looked into it when I saw the signs posted last year and determined that I and the running group would be safe. No one can run these trails prior to dawn as it is DARK... If one does run them in the dark, a smart individual will have a headlamp and a hi-vis vest making them visible for a hunter or bicyclist to see. I also have yet to see any students on the trails at anytime of the day.

    The overpopulation of deer is a severe health problem for the deer. Over population leads to under weight and sick deer. So instead of seeing the occassional healthy buck or doe on the trail or crossing a street, you will see an increased number of starving and sick deer trying to find food by jumping fences to get at those lovely plants in yards, rather than staying in the streambeds eating the plants found there.

  9. Check this out... Link to coverage of a community that is using utd methodology for non-lethal deer population control.--Spaying female deer. If you kill #s of deer, they breed back to carrying capacity. So, it isn't any sustainable solution. If you spay and release the deer, they don't breed and the #'s born even to remaining intact deer go way down. Results in from communities leading the way in this are good!

  10. i cannot find any history of an archery hunter mistakeing a human or pet for a deer. I think biologist know a little more about this than we do. Keep calm these hunters are proven qualified and they donate much of the harvest to Hunters for the Hungry.

  11. I am one of the hunters in these groups harvesting these deer. We do not shoot people and I have yet to even see a person anywhere near where I hunt as well as my fellow hunters in the club since we don't hunt within 400 yards of any walking trail.

    I harvest my deer for myself and my family to EAT. I also donate deer to a local charity for hungry families in need. There is only so much food to go around for the deer. So you self righteous animal nuts please educate yourself before spewing your nonsense and hate..We don't shoot the deer and just leave them there like you people think.