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Urban deer hunt off to usual fast start

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Just 12 days into the annual urban hunt, bowhunters already have dragged 36 dead deer out of Charleston backyards.

That's as many as were killed in the entire 2008 season, said City Manager David Molgaard.

"Obviously, it's a moving target," Molgaard said Wednesday, with no trace of irony in his voice. "We're in the middle of the season."

Deer kills soared in Charleston after 2008, after City Attorney Paul Ellis negotiated more liberal bag limits with state wildlife officials. Now, hunters who register with the city can kill up to seven deer each year, as long as their first kill and five of the seven are female.

Since City Council members first allowed deer hunting in the city with an abbreviated two-week season in 2005, managing the hunt has become part of the yearly business cycle for Molgaard and his assistant, Caroline Keeney.

"I think it's fairly routine now," he said. "We start taking permit applications two to three weeks in advance, the first Monday after the state fair."

Keeney posts the rules on the city website (look under the pull-down Residents tab at cityofcharleston.org), and word travels by word of mouth, Molgaard said. "The DNR sets the season dates, so hunters know about it.

"Every year when I come in that [first] morning, there's a line of hunters out the door, many of them in camouflage. So they're anxious."

The fast start this year is typical of the past few years. Perhaps deer get skittish after the first few weeks or hunters lose interest after bagging a deer or two.

The "harvest" count, or deer kill, rose steadily through 2011, then fell off last year. "We had 83 harvested last year, 93 the year before," he said.

The number of registered hunters has dropped off, too, from a peak of 136 in 2011 to 110 so far this year. That number is unlikely to rise much, because most owners of the private tracts where hunting is allowed are not accepting more hunters.

For safety reasons, hunting is forbidden on lots of fewer than five acres.

Many of the hunting tracts -- the city's Cato and Pacific Street sites, George Daniels and Vince Dudley in South Hills, Harry and Buffy Wallace in Loudon Heights, Tom Lane at Quarry Creek and Bob Frostick on the West Side hill -- have been around for years. Others come and go.

"We have 21 tracts, and I have one [pending] on my desk that just came in," Molgaard said. Of those, 17 also registered last year; five dropped off from the 2012 list of 22.

All but five of the 36 deer killed so far have been female -- all the better for holding down the deer population -- and hunters have been equally successful across the city.

Five were killed at Quarry Creek, and four each at Dudley's Rambler Road site off Oakwood Road and the Centers Road site -- on the wooded hillside west of Wertz Avenue below the McJunkin Redman offices.

"As our program continues, [the deer kill] may taper off a bit," Molgaard said. "Hopefully, that would happen.

"But we have a problem with our deer population. We'll never eradicate the nuisance. We're making a big dent in controlling the issue. The fact we're having new properties come on each year, people know about the program."

Reach Jim Balow at balow@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5102.


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