Thursday, October 18, 2012


Last year saw the introduction of a new event in Morgantown, WV – an organized archery hunt for the purpose of controlling the population of deer. The approval process was a bit of an ordeal, with various citizens putting in their two cents on the issue (Not to stereotype, but it basically boiled down to “My rose bushes!” vs. “Think of the children!”), and the city paid for and conducted an altogether strange aerial/infrared survey of the deer population. At the conclusion of the democratic process, the rose bush contingent won out and the city gave their blessing.

I was excited about the prospects for this hunt, though not for the normal reasons (ie, the joy of the hunt). The big (admittedly selfish) appeal for me was convenience. We were pregnant with our second child at the time (Elias Jack, now an incredibly enthusiastic 1 year old) so staying close to home pre and post birth was of paramount importance. I went through the process of getting a permit, which was easy enough – take an extra safety class and pass a basic shooting test. Five arrows on a pie plate later, BOOM – legal.

Anyway, 2011 wasn’t that productive for my partner and I (we shared stands – I was lucky enough to work with Paul Liston, a hunter, mountain man, drinker and womanizer of some renowned) and at the end of it I only had one city deer to show for my efforts, which were actually pretty considerable. That deer did represent a few firsts for me, though – first deer from the ground, and first deer killed over bait.

View from the blind. 

It was also the first deer I’ve ever killed within 30 yards of an incredibly busy and noisy highway. The photo doesn’t do it justice, but here it is:

Difficult to see, but that's a mini-van on a 4 lane road right behind my blind.

Despite these strange environs, nature showed up to some degree; lots of squirrels and rabbits and plenty of great bird sightings, along with an incident wherein a moot of starlings all gathered in the oak tree above my head and had a giant, incredibly loud conversation. I narrowly avoided being shat upon. Crazy. One more first, a little more esoteric: first deer killed out of a ground blind constructed out of trash; a discarded swing set, to be specific:

Swingset support members, now supporting camouflage burlap!

I’m not into hunting over bait – I think it’s largely unnecessary, for one thing. Baiting has always struck me as man trying to impose his will over the deer rather than getting in there are really hunting. Urban hunting has softened my stance on that, however, due in large part to the fact that in many of these stand sites, due to safety concerns, the hunter needs that deer to stand RIGHT…. HERE. Bait helps accomplish that.

Enter 2012. Rick Bebout, the citizen lead on this hunt, has the unenviable job of securing access to properties, assigning stands and acting as the public face for the hunt. He has done nothing short of an amazing job with that task. He called me one evening back in August to go check out a potential property to hunt that’s very close (even closer than last year) to my house. We head down there and check it out and both of us are… cautious… about the area due to the fact that it’s Urban. Really urban. I agreed to go through with it for the good of the hunt. I secured permission from the adjacent landowner and placed a ground blind at the end of a row of conifers that forms a property line overlooking over a busy deer trail. “Overlooking” is the wrong word, actually – “practically on top of” is more accurate.

Find the blind!

Anyway, as I alluded to before, for safety reasons, this ground blind position has a pretty narrow shooting window. I would conservatively estimate it to be about 50 degrees. Within 50 yards of where I plop down my stool, there are 5 houses. Two of those houses are within 20 yards, and the back porch of one of them is within spitting distance (with a tailwind, anyway). There is no doubt, when sitting in this blind, that I am in a city.

View from the blind; a manicured lawn!

This year has been pretty productive. In four hunts out of that blind (all from about 4pm till dark after work) I’ve had deer sightings 3 nights, kills two nights and lots of ancillary wildlife action, including an insanely loud and up-close blue jay howling session. Those guys, now, they can TALK. 

Cities are alive with nature (though not like wild places) if you take the time to poke around a little. Even though sitting in a ground blind in the middle of a neighborhood is noisy and urban, it’s given me a window into the lives of the smaller and overlooked denizens of our little town. Groundhogs grazing, squirrels and chipmunks doing acrobatics, and of course house cats, deer and all manner of song birds. Just sit still – melt in a little.

I still prefer rougher places to hunt, but the world is closing in on a lot of territory. An interesting offshoot of the aforementioned primary appeal of this hunt (convenience) is that I feel less urgent to tag out when I do get out in more traditional hunting locations. At this point (it’s only mid-October!) in the season, I already have two deer down and plenty of hunting opportunities remaining to fill the larder. Urban archery, for me, has been well worth the effort and I feel like I've learned a lot about the town I live in. I can't help wishing sometimes, when sitting in my blind, that all the people around me would just STOP for a minute, but I've overcome the urge (so far) to let it bother me. A win, so much as it is, in these modern times.  

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