Urban Deer Management Programs Provide Unique Opportunity Close-to-Home

There’s a big buck in town!  I first saw him in early June that year.  The large-bodied buck already had a substantial growth of velvet antler visible even from the quarter-mile distance down the road he was crossing.  From the back seat, my sons were both delighted when I pointed him out.  Hazard flashers on, I slowed to a stop about where the buck had crossed the busy four lane road.  I grabbed the binoculars that are always on hand in my truck and scanned the small soybean field he’d entered.  Over a rise in the field I could see the top third of his body as he browsed along the edge of the wooded creek drainage.  Eight velvety tines with large masses at both antler bases were clearly visible.  It looked like he had some non-typical growth beginning.  My imagination went wild picturing what he’d look like after the ninety antler-growing days that remained.

Urban Deer Hunting: A modern reality is that agricultural lands and rural woodlots are being developed into industrial parks and suburban housing communities at a quick rate.  A testament to their adaptability, the Whitetail Deer has thrived in the midst of this expanding human encroachment.  The popular practice of including forested acres in subdivisions, parks, and corporate campuses makes this landscape attractive to deer.  Suburban manicured lawns, ornamental shrubs, flower gardens, and fruit-bearing trees add to the appeal.  In many cases, deer are protected by city ordinances prohibiting hunting or the use of firearms and archery equipment within their municipalities.  The combination of protection from hunters, abundant food sources and desirable habitat has contributed to deer populations spiking to undesirably high levels in many city areas.

The amount of tolerance people have for deer in urban settings varies greatly.  Some want to have as many deer as possible, despite unfavorable consequences resulting from high deer densities.  Others see deer eating their roses and have struck them with their vehicles.  They consider deer to be mere pests that must be eradicated.  Between these two extremes many people enjoy the presence of deer, but they accept the fact that deer populations must be managed by some means.  They realize that deer overpopulation is directly related to malnutrition, disease, and high rates of vehicle-deer collisions.

Among the negative consequences of high deer densities, vehicle-deer collisions are the most evident and easiest to quantify.  On average, a deer is struck by a vehicle on our nation’s roadways every 21 seconds.  More tragically, about 150 people are killed each year nationwide and thousands more sustain injuries due to deer collisions.  For example, in Wisconsin there were 19,846 reported vehicle-deer collisions in a recent year that caused 11 fatalities and 689 injuries, of which 73 were incapacitating injuries.  Nationwide, these collisions cost motorists and insurance companies over $1 Billion annually.

These accidents can occur almost anywhere, but statistics indicate that more deer are struck in urban areas than in rural settings.  For example, Cook County, Illinois topped that state’s by-county deer crash list recently with almost 1,000 deer-related accidents in the urban Chicago area.  This almost doubled the 572 deer strikes recorded in rural Pike County, highly regarded as a quality deer hunting destination.

City officials across the country are increasingly identifying bowhunting as a practical solution to help control local deer herds.  Alternative control methods such as trapping, fencing and sharpshooting have commonly been too expensive, impractical, unpopular, and are generally ineffective.  For instance, although deer fences have proven effective in reducing the number of collisions on stretches of roadway where they’re used, they aren’t cheap, costing more than $40,000 per mile.  Regulated hunting programs provide a low-cost, safe and sensible way to address a city’s deer over-population while providing a quality recreational opportunity.

These expanding programs are rapidly gaining the attention of hunters.  Pursuing urban deer may seem contradictory to the traditional heritage of deer hunting in the big woods and rural agricultural lands.  Yet, an increasing number of hunters are finding pockets of good habitat and, sometimes, exceptional hunting within municipal boundaries.

To ensure municipal bowhunting is conducted in a safe and non-disruptive manner, most city programs have established more detailed regulations than those of their home states.  This is the case with the City of Leavenworth, Kansas’ hunting program which requires bowhunters to hunt only from treestands placed at least ten feet from the ground so that no arrow would land within 50 feet of a property line.  Hunters must first harvest an antlerless deer to become eligible for a buck.  No field-dressings may be left on the property.  Participants must pass a written exam to demonstrate their understanding of the city ordinance and must pass an archery shooting proficiency test at a twenty-five yard range.  Landowner’s written permission must be attained along with their signature on a liability release form furnished by the city.

The US Army assigned me to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas in 2005 when the City of Leavenworth Urban Deer Management Program (UDMP) was in it’s first year.  This program has been a resounding success with now over 70 bowhunters participating annually.  The program has gained popularity with urban landowners also as they realize reductions in landscape and garden damage caused by deer.  The annual rate of vehicle-deer collisions has also been reduced by over 55%, resulting in a decreased load on police and emergency services- an important factor to consider in these times of tight budgets.

As a Working Class Whitetail hunter, I am on a personal budget as well.  With fuel prices soaring and a very busy work schedule at the US Army Command and General Staff College, it is difficult for me to routinely drive long distances in pursuit of quality deer hunting.  My participation in the Leavenworth UDMP has afforded me excellent deer hunting opportunities, sometimes within a mile of my suburban home.  I have had many successful hunts literally on my way home from work.

These urban deer hunting opportunities are becoming increasingly common.  If you are looking for a cost-effective, unique and rewarding deer hunting experience, I suggest seeking out an urban deer hunting program near you.  Your next deer, your next trophy buck in fact, could be literally at your doorstep!

I hope you enjoy the attached video archive of some of my Leavenworth UDMP hunts!  It dates back to the 2007-2008 season, but that’s one of the rewarding aspects of filming hunts- you can replay them and re-live them.  But, that’s a topic for another Deer and Deer Hunting / Working Class Whitetails blog.


Enjoy your weekend… and be SAFE- ALWAYS wear a quality full-containment safety system, such as the Hunter’s Safety System vest while in a treestand.

Thanks for reading this, I hope it was enjoyable, informative, and entertaining!

-Dave Ruiter