Bowhunting the Burbs
Going off the grid for days to bowhunt remote places is exciting, but hunting near home is more convenient.
Taylor Chamberlin lives just outside Washington, D.C., in suburbia where continuous properties rarely exceed a few acres. Despite that, Chamberlin bowhunts minutes from home and keeps his freezer full of venison.
Much like many suburban areas across whitetail country, northern Virginia teems with deer. Deer densities are so high in some areas that it’s hard to accurately assess how many roam the landscape, but some estimates surpass 400 deer per square mile. As a result, homeowners fight never-ending battles to maintain landscaped yards as Lyme disease and other deer-linked problems keep increasing.
Controlling deer herds with extra hunting opportunities helps reduce whitetail problems, whether it’s reducing deer-vehicle collisions or browse damage to shrubs.
Suburban hunts can often be done quickly before or after work each day, and extend well beyond the regular archery season. Areas with high deer densities also feature more liberal bag limits than what’s offered during traditional seasons. If you’re unsure about areas you’d like to hunt, check with your state’s fish and wildlife agency for specifics. Chamberlin can hunt antlerless deer almost year-round. He takes advantage of those opportunities by filling not only his own freezer, but also donating venison to Virginia’s Hunters for the Hungry program.
Suburban whitetails spend most of their time in homeowners’ backyard, so bowhunters must use creative hunting tactics. Chamberlin, for example, has hunted from forts, swing sets and, most recently, a modified arborist saddle designed for bowhunting.
“Tree forts are awesome because deer are used to them, just like a haybale blind that you’d find in the Midwest,” Chamberlin said.
Bowhunting tactics differ vastly for urban backyards, but they’re still vital to your success. Chamberlin keeps close contact with landowners to better understand how and when deer use the property, and monitors when lawnmowers and landscapers are working.
“Deer love it when they blow the leaves off and expose the lush grass underneath,” Chamberlin said. “The grass draws deer just like a food plot would.
Suburban bowhunts are also great for showing nonhunters the benefits of hunting firsthand. Most homeowners appreciate the reduced damage to shrubs and flowers. Also be sure to offer venison to those who let you bowhunt their land. Free, cleanly packaged venison helps folks understand venison’s value, and reminds them where the food originated.
In an era where more people live in urban or suburban areas, backyard bowhunting becomes increasingly beneficial. Bowhunters are vital stewards of our wildlife and natural resources, so take advantage of extended bowhunting opportunities whenever suburban areas provide them. These programs fill your freezer, help wildlife and its habitat, and help you make new friends.