South Charlotte

Bow-hunting applications draw concern

With the state’s deer-hunting season expected to start this week for archery enthusiasts, some hunters have asked the town of Matthews for permission to use bows and arrows in the town limits, which some residents object to.

“I, along with a lot of my neighbors, am furious, sad, and really opposed to this,” resident Nikki Thompson, who lives in the Glen Devon neighborhood, wrote in an email to the Observer. “For our safety & kids safety. And because the deer are not over-populated here. They are not sick, starving or causing traffic problems.”

In Matthews, a crossbow falls under the firearm ordinance, and citizens must obtain a permit to shoot within town limits.

Deer season for archery this year is Sept. 13 to Oct. 31 in Mecklenburg County, according to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. Meanwhile, black-powder deer hunting – which includes black-powder shotguns, black-powder rifles and black-powder handguns – is Nov. 1-14, and gun hunting is Nov. 15 to Jan. 1.

The Board of Commissioners is expected to review at least six applications to discharge a bow at its Sept. 22 meeting, said Police Chief Rob Hunter.

To receive a permit to shoot a bow, a resident must fill out an application, which is reviewed by the Matthews Police Department. Then the applicant must submit to a visit from an officer, who will examine the position of the deer stand, look at nearby properties and determine if it is safe to discharge a bow in that location.

The Police Department then makes a recommendation to commissioners, who have the final say.

Matthew Mayor Jim Taylor said public officials have already received several letters about the applications from concerned residents, even though the applications haven’t gone before the board yet.

He noted that the applications aren’t necessarily for hunting wildlife; sometimes people want a permit for target practice in their backyard. But the applications are reviewed the same way, no matter what the intent is, he said.

Taylor also said that while the chances would be “slim to none” that a permit would be issued in a dense community like Brightmoor, it might be reasonable to award permits to people living on 10-acre lots where “it is 100 percent safe and 100 percent their right.”

He emphasized that the town board does not award hunting permits; that’s a state responsibility. Instead, the town board’s job is to decide whether it’s safe to discharge a weapon.

“Sometimes we receive emails from people against the killing of deer, but that cannot come into our decision-making process,” he said, noting that the town’s priority is safety for its residents. “This is an added level of protection to everyone in town.”

Hunter noted that the town has never received complaints about safety or responded to any incidents after a permit was awarded to a resident.

But Thompson said she and her neighbors don’t feel safe, even with the extra precautions of the application process.

She noted that her neighborhood, Glendevon, is bordered by a lot of other developments and a small wooded buffer between those developments and some athletic fields. She said many people, especially young people, cut through the woods to visit friends in the bordering neighborhoods and the athletic fields.

She said she’s concerned because a neighbor in a development behind hers has applied for a permit. She believes it will pose a safety threat to people wandering through the woods and in surrounding communities.

Hunters say it’s safe

Paul Howard, who is applying for a permit to shoot a bow and arrow on Brittle Creek Drive, near Thompson’s neighborhood, said he has mostly received letters of support. He said the main concern he’s heard is for the safety of children who play in the woods or cut through the woods to the ball field.

“My only response to that is one, it’s private property so they shouldn’t be cutting through anyway and two, you can tell the difference between a child and a deer when you’re standing in a tree stand as a hunter,” said Howard, 39.

Hunter added that he wouldn’t shoot the first deer he saw. He would want to make sure that he can ethically kill the deer with one shot and also that it’s a large enough size because he plans to eat the meat.

He said he’s also heard concerns about arrows ricocheting and hurting an unintended target but he said that because of the angle of the arrow being shot from a tree stand, it’s not likely to do that. And if it does, it would only be a couple of feet, not several yards.

Thompson said a lot of her neighbors also enjoy having the deer around and even have feeding stations for them.

“They love wildlife & seeing the peaceful creatures,” she wrote in an email. “I can’t think of a worse crime than to shoot a powerful hunting bow with razor tip arrows around houses that all only sit on (a half) acre each or less. In order to kill an animal that we have conditioned not to fear humans & run.”

Taylor said some residents don’t see deer as a blessing; some see them as a nuisance. And some even think that deer are overpopulated in the town.

He noted the town board is expected to hear from an N.C. State University biologist at the Sept. 22 meeting to learn whether there is an over-abundance of deer in town. That’s a separate agenda item, he said.

“The deer herd in that area has really grown over the last several years,” Howard said. “The problem is they’re getting comfortable with the area and for them to not be afraid of humans, that’s an issue. That’s not normal.”

Taylor also emphasized that the town doesn’t issue many permits each year. He said that in past years, the town has only granted three or four permits annually.

Meanwhile, Hunter said, the ordinance may become obsolete on its own as development continues, noting that construction has increased in the last couple of years.

“There’s a strong likelihood that we’re going to reach a time when our community is urbanized to a level where this just isn’t a safe practice within the community anymore,” he said.