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Cornell University Researcher: Bowhunting is the Way to Deer Management

Cornell University expert Bernd Blossey is convinced that bowhunting is the best and cheapest way to control deer numbers and here’s why.

When the village of Trumansburg, N.Y. needed a way to cull the burgeoning deer population inside its borders, they happily turned to Associate Professor Bernd Blossey of Cornell University.

As it turned out, the university’s Department of Natural Resources member would not represent the university this time, but instead be a volunteer to the village’s Deer Management Program. In fact, the veteran bowhunter helped devise the plan to cull deer from inside the village.

Beginning in September 2014 and ending in April 2015 the original cull produced 88 kills, but according to a flyover in the spring, some 40 deer still resided inside the village that is just a short drive from Taughhannock Falls State Park and the famed Cayuga Lake. In short, the cull needed to happen again.

The stand Blossey would take this time was not so different from where he had hunted before, but the view is not like that which most bowhunters see. His ladder stand is affixed to a bare tree well within view of the house of the property. The time is late afternoon and he is using a red light at the end of his bow that he says the deer cannot see.

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Since the cull is intended to reduce numbers and thin the herd inside the village, the hunt occurs in the evening and is completed over bait. The 11 volunteers, including Blossey, hunt by permission of cooperative landowners armed not only with their own equipment, but with official DEC nuisance tags.

Blossey said the requirements are the same for every hunter: “Archers must report any shots taken and the results promptly. This includes misses, non-lethal hits, and kills. Observations about deer numbers and behavior should be submitted on the same forms.”

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Trumansburg Mayor Marty Petrovic said that last year’s program cost just under $4,000, including $900 for corn feeders and about $1,000 for the corn bought from local farms. $2,000 was spent on the aircraft used to do the follow-up deer count.

Since all the archers are interviewed and even given criminal background checks, following the village’s Code of Conduct is second nature to all. Once on the hunt, the volunteers are required to contact the group, including village board members, indicating that they are on stand, shoot at, kill, or need help tracking and dragging an animal.

Harvested deer are promptly removed by the hunter and gutted strictly at the village’s DPW garage. The remains are either kept by the archer or taken to a local deer processor with the meat being donated to a local food pantry. In some cases, the meat is taken by the archer and given to the property owner as thanks for allowing the hunt to occur on their property.

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But not so fast, says Blossey: “These deer are getting smart” The archers are told not to shoot if the group size is over five deer. “You can’t get the whole herd. Let them go,” said Blossey “You may get one, but you’ll teach the others a lesson, making them difficult to get”

This is a scenario that deer hunters know all too well: one big matriarch doe watching over the rest from the back with her nose in the air and her ‘radar’ dish ears tuned in can turn a successful hunt into a laugh with one snort.

Blossey also stressed that this kind of program works and it works well saying that it’s not all about how many deer are taken, but how many deer are left and whether or not the issues associated with an over abundance of deer are resolved.

He emphasized that once a program like this has been started it must be continued to keep the herd in check. According to the DEC one doe and one buck, averaging two fawns per year, can turn into 64 deer in just 6 years.

All photos via Syracuse.com

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Cornell University Researcher: Bowhunting is the Way to Deer Management