Bow hunting in the Albemarle city limits could get easier, depending on public feedback.
Currently, residents are allowed to bow hunt deer in the city from mid-January to mid-February, as long as they follow a set of state and municipal restrictions.
Among those restrictions are bylaws that limit bow hunting to properties of five acres or more and completely prohibit it within 500 feet of any street, park or occupied structure.
However, according to hunters, this severely cuts down the number of huntable properties in the city, which in turn cuts down the number of deer they are able to take.
Since Albemarle began its urban archery season in 2015, only 13 deer have been killed in the city, wildlife officials report, only two in the past year.
“The whole reason for an urban archery season is to reduce the deer population within a city,” said Sgt. Branden Jones of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “Looking at the numbers... the program is not being very productive.”
With that in mind, City Council is considering lowering its bow hunting restrictions. That could mean reducing the distance hunters have to be from property lines (currently 250 feet) or reducing the minimum acreage for huntable properties.
Albemarle’s minimum acreage is a bit on the high end, according to figures researched by Albemarle Parks and Recreation.
According to data staff members collected on other municipalities with urban archery seasons, 17 of 21 cities allowed hunting on lower acreage properties than Albemarle (between zero and three acres, rather than five). And of those 17, seven had a higher number of deer kills from 2015-2017.
In addition, the three cities with the highest number of deer kills per capita during urban archery season (Valdese, Pleasant Garden and Archer Loge), had no municipal acreage bylaws at all (though some restrictions are set by state law).
“Five (acres) is a little high and I think that’s why we’re not getting as much participation,” Jones said.
However, a lower acreage requirement doesn’t necessarily mean more dear kills, either.
Shelby, the closest to Albemarle in population and deer concentration, has no municipal acreage restrictions, but saw about the same kills per capita as Albemarle.
In addition, four of the cities with more deer kills than Albemarle had either a higher population (and therefore more potential hunters) or a higher concentration of deer per acre (more potential game).
“And if you go down to an acre, you’re talking about residential areas, properties in neighborhoods,” Councilman Chris Whitley said. “I’m not supportive of that... we’ve got to hear from more than hunters on this.”
So before the council moves forward with lowering any kind of urban archery restrictions, a public input session is scheduled for 7 p.m. March 5.
Anyone with questions, concerns or support for the lowering restrictions is asked to speak to come to Albemarle City Hall and speak then.
“We don’t want this to be another golf cart issue,” Mayor Ronnie Michael said, referring to another public input session the city hosted recently about allowing golf carts on downtown streets.
Despite a flurry of social media chatter about that matter, only two speakers came forward to formally offer an opinion at the public input session, he said.
“We want to make sure it’s well known what we’re considering, so we can hear those comments here,” Michael said.
Contact Shannon Beamon at (704) 982-2121 ext. 24, or firstname.lastname@example.org.