What's the safest way to learn how to hunt in the suburbs?
The classic vision of hunting is one where hunters head out into the wilderness in pursuit of big bucks. However, more and more these days, deer herds are lurking closer to civilization, zeroing in on suburban developments, local businesses, malls, and other places where people are prevalent and food is easy to come by.
Wildlife management professionals cite the spread of deer as a reason for hunters to head out and cull the herd, so to speak, the thought being that whitetail populations are spreading out due to rapid population growth that simply needs to be trimmed back. But no matter how many deer hunters harvest in the woods, others will still creep toward the suburbs where they can cause car accidents and other forms of damage.
Quite simply, deer go where they can find food, and the suburbs are always a hotspot for that need.
Therefore, in order to actually "cull the herd" and get the deer away from the suburbs, hunters need to actually target the deer that have wandered close to their homes. Hunting in the suburbs may seem like a simple task: after all, if the deer are coming to you rather than the other way around, how difficult could the process be? But while suburban deer sightings aren't terribly difficult to come by, hunting whitetail in the suburbs is a bit more complicated than it seems on the surface. In fact, a hunter hoping to score a few deer kills close to home will have to use unique strategies that he or she may not exercise out in the wild.
First of all, if you are interested in hunting suburban deer populations, chances are that you are going to have to get close with a few private landowners in your area. While hunting by power lines, near railroads, along highways and county roads, or on public wooded trails can be a great way to tap into deer travel corridors, they aren't always a surefire bet for catching deer at the perfect moment. Deer will wander these corridors in between their bedding areas and their food sources, but in order to strike suburban hunting gold, you are going to want to find the food source, the bedding sanctuary, or both.
The food sources could be anything in the suburbs, from a multi-acreage farmland to a backyard garden. Listen around in your community for chatter about crop destruction or garden pests. If deer are taking advantage of a feeding plot, they are probably camping out not far from that property, around the fringes or in nearby wooded areas. So find a property you think might be playing host to deer dining banquets, then try to secure permissions to hunt that land. You can use the food as the bait and keep your eyes to the edges of the property to find deer activity.
As for finding the bedding sanctuaries, look around your community for "No Hunting" or "No Trespassing" signs. Deer flock to these areas because of their low pressure, and often use them as safe houses of sorts to support their suburban trouble making. Property owners who put up signs forbidding hunting or trespassing want their privacy, but don't often realize that they are creating a support system for deer. If you're feeling brave - and a little bit lucky - approach one of these landowners and explain that their low pressure properties are giving deer the license they need to destroy nearby crops and cause car accidents. With some solid persuasive skills, you could be hunting a golden private deer sanctuary within the week.
That being said, never hunt or trespass on land that is posted with signs prohibiting it, or on land that you are unsure about. Always gain permission from land owners before entering or hunting any private property. Also, many states have designated no hunting areas, so consult your local department of game and wildlife to ensure you are within your rights.
And of course, it should go without saying, but learning how to hunt in the suburbs involves an extreme attention to safety. Any time firearms are used in close proximity with people, buildings or roadways, total precautions should be taken.
Some states are initiating archery-only urban hunting seasons, like Virginia has done. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shares its guidelines on trespass laws as well. It is up to the hunter to take responsibility and ensure that suburban hunting is both legal and safe in their area.
With the right permission and a little suburban scouting, hunting doesn't always require wide open spaces.