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Saturday, August 10, 2013
The countdown to Virginia's 2013 deer hunting season is about to get rolling in earnest.
The general archery season opens Oct. 5, but many of us will get started earlier, thanks to a couple of special offerings.
First comes the urban archery season, a population control tool that the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries started offering several years ago.
Urban archery season, during which only antlerless deer are fair game, starts Sept. 7 in the localities that offer the season.
The next big day, and one that has really grown in popularity, is the youth deer hunting day.
Since it was introduced a few years ago the youth day has been offered on the final Saturday in September.
This year it falls on Sept. 28.
Youth day isn't just for youth 15 and younger any more.
This spring, the DGIF's board approved a proposal to allow holders of apprentice licences to hunt on that day, too.
The move is part of the DGIF's efforts to recruit new hunters, the thinking being that getting them out in the woods with a good opportunity for success will increase the likelihood of those new hunters sticking around.
While special hunting opportunities for certain groups have prompted "that's not fair" grumbles in the past, I haven't heard any complaints about the new apprentice licences allowance, which also applies to the youth turkey and bear hunting days.
Nowadays, veteran hunters realize that recruiting is critical, particularly as hunting readies to weather the severe attrition looming as aging baby boomers leave the sport.
The urban deer season continues to expand.
This year the offering applies to 36 cities and towns, and five counties meeting population density requirements.
Despite the urban title, the term suburban might be more appropriate based on where the hunting is taking place.
Every locality that opts in to the program is allowed to establish hunting guidelines, and a common one is that hunting is often restricted to parcels that must meet a minimum size requirement.
Also, hunters are required to maintain a buffer between themselves and roads and buildings, so hunting is impossible in densely developed areas.
A rule in Radford, for example, establishes the minimum parcel size at 6 acres.
And in Roanoke County, the urban archery rules deem it "unlawful for any person to engage in hunting with a bow or to discharge arrows from bows within 100 yards of a dwelling house or occupied building not his or her own."
(Urban archery hunters in Roanoke County need to keep in mind that the county's urban archery season does not apply to national forest or DGIF-owned property in the county.)
While we all tend to see plenty of deer in suburbia, that doesn't mean hunting during the urban archery season is necessarily easy.
When hunting smaller tracts, hunters often must rely on deer that are passing through, because getting to a stand frequently spooks deer that are near the area.
So, just like when preparing for regular deer season, urban archery hunters should do some pre-season scouting.
Those who use motion-activated trail cameras for that scouting should avoid using bait and attractants to get pictures of deer.
Attractants can certainly work, and remain legal for a few more weeks.
But because any bait or attractants must be removed prior to hunting seasons (and deer feeding is completely disallowed from Sept. 1 through the first Saturday in January) scouting hunters are better served by getting pictures of deer while the animals are using their normal travel routines.
There are a couple other key ways to prepare for urban archery seasons, in addition to scouting and to practicing shooting your bow or crossbow.
One is to be prepared to hunt in warm weather.
Clothing should be light and breathable. It's hard to beat a netting ghillie suit. A netted face mask can also help, not only to stay hidden from deer, but to keep mosquitoes at bay.
A Thermacell mosquito repeller is a good alternative - or addition - to a face net. They're affordable, and they work.
Hunters should be prepared to immediately process a deer, with space set aside in a fridge for aging quarters or in a freezer for immediate storage of processed meat.
Finally, hunters hoping for some pre-season bowhunting instruction have a couple of options in the Roanoke area.
On Sept. 8, Blackwater Bowhunters in Wirtz will host a Virginia Bowhunter Education Course at the club.
The course runs from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Spots are limited and pre-registration is required. To register, visit www.huntfishva.com and navigate to the hunting education section.
The next weekend, on Sept, 14 and 15, Sherwood Archers in Roanoke County will host its annual Bowhunters Jamboree, which features a 3-D shoot and other shoots both days. More information is available at www.sherwoodarchersroanokeva.com.
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