South Charlotte

Deer-hunting season raises plenty of issues

As bow-hunting enthusiasts eagerly await the upcoming deer-hunting season Sept. 1, many county and municipal governments are navigating a forest of weapons restrictions, safety concerns, an ever-growing deer population and citizens’ desire to hunt them.

According to state laws, deer may only be hunted with a bow and arrow until Nov. 7; after that date, other weapons also are allowed.

From Nov. 1-21, the animals may also be hunted with black-powder weapons; from Nov. 15, other types of firearms may be used.

Also, starting Jan. 10, there will be an Urban Archery Season, which is optional for towns and municipal governments. In Union County, Fairview, Indian Trail, Mineral Springs, Stallings, Unionville, Waxhaw and Weddington will participate; Huntersville is the only Mecklenburg County town planning to take part.

Deer estimates for Mecklenburg County vary wildly, according to N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission Biologist Rupert Medford. He said estimates aren’t made for the parts of the county that are highly developed. He also said the deer population in rural areas can be as high as 45 or more per square mile.

Pineville does not allow weapons to be fired within town limits. Mint Hill lets the state handle all hunting applications.

For the current bow-and-arrow season, Matthews commissioners have issued four permits. Coupled with a hunting license issued by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the permits allow four individuals to shoot deer in town.

Union County residents Travis Bakken and Andrew Douglas Hagler were issued permits to bow hunt on land owned by David Blackly near Phillips and Stallings Roads. That land is right at the Mecklenburg-Union County border.

Michael Gesell has been issued a permit to shoot a bow on his land at 2016 Kimway Drive, and Ron Williams was given a permit to shoot a compound bow and crossbow on his property at Charing Cross Drive.

Obtaining a Discharge of Firearms Permit in Matthews is a two-step process that involves the Matthews Police Department and commissioners.

“Six or seven years ago, the bow and arrow was added to the firearms ordinance,” Matthews Police Chief Rob Hunter said recently. “When someone makes an application for a permit  they must state their purpose, the location and the time of day they intend to use it.”

A background check is performed and an officer inspects the proposed site. For the past several years, that officer has been Sgt. Bill Shaw, who said he spent more than 50 hours visiting sites, taking pictures and looking at safety concerns.

Shaw said he examines proximity to neighboring properties and makes recommendations on the elevation and direction of the weapon’s discharge and any other appropriate restriction.

“All stands must be elevated so the angle of projection goes down to the ground,” Shaw said.

The applicant also must notify all adjoining property owners to give them a chance to voice concerns.

Even with a positive recommendation from police officials, two permits have been denied this year. One application was for a site on Brittle Creek Drive near Matthews Athletic and Recreation Association land; the other was on Lakenheath Lane.

Before the recent vote on permits, Medford gave a presentation to commissioners about the importance of controlling the deer population. He said deer can cause car accidents and property damage.

Medford also said a wounded deer could travel as far as 150 yards before dying.

Commissioner John Higdon voted for three requests but voted against three others, including Gesell’s Kimway Drive application. Higdon said he didn’t want to take a chance on a dying deer running onto someone else’s property.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to hunt where a dying or maimed deer could end up on someone’s doorstep or in a child’s sandbox,” Higdon said.

Commissioner Jeff Miller voted against all the requests.

Cyril Varlack, a homeowner, also spoke against a request. His property joins the property at Stallings and Phillips Road. Varlack said he’s concerned that firing from one of the requested stands would send an arrow, or wounded animal, into his backyard.

“I will feel like a prisoner in my home. I can’t go outside because hunters will be in the tree. The stand is only 225 feet from my backyard,” Varlack said.

Commissioners agreed to delete that stand from the permit but approved two others on that property.

Matthews Mayor Jim Taylor said that as the town grows he expects the permitting process to change.

“We turned down the request on the smaller lots. The ones we approved were on large parcels of land. I think this is something that we need to continue to review,” Taylor said.