COLUMBIA — Archers such as Jack Hempen who like to hunt deer within the city limits are likely to find more competition in their favorite spots this year, a situation that has the city pondering whether to expand its deer management program.
More hunters are registering to participate in Columbia’s deer management program every year. Hempen, a veteran of the program, was one of 288 hunters who registered last year, when participants reported killing 22 deer in the city.
Hunters are supposed to report their kills, but city officials suspect some don’t. Hempen said he killed a doe last year on sewer utility property along Strawn Road.
“It’s not much of a story, (but) I really like the program,” Hempen said.
Still, Hempen said he is a bit discouraged by the subdivisions sprouting up along Strawn Road, which is among the most heavily hunted areas of the city, according to several hunters who attended an orientation session for the 2008 season last week.
Participating hunters are required to attend an orientation in order to obtain a special permit allowing them to pursue deer within city boundaries. The seven properties open to bow hunters are the city landfill, Twin Lakes Recreation Area, Smith Park, Grindstone Nature Area and the sewer utility properties on Strawn Road, Bainbridge Drive and Coats Lane. MU also allows bow hunting in the woods around A.L. Gustin Golf Course.
The city might recommend adding the newly acquired Philips and Crane park properties next year, and it will work with Boone County commissioners to add Jay Dix Park along the MKT Trail near Scott Boulevard, Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said.
“The hunters request it every year,” St. Romaine said, but first the city must “show statistically it’s effective.”
Columbia started the program to reduce the number of auto collisions involving deer. Park Ranger Rosanna Arens said it appears to be working.
“It really helps cut down vehicle accidents in areas where deer are abundant,” Arens said.
Statistics from the city showed 47 collisions in 2005, 49 in 2006 and 28 in 2007.
Arens patrols all city park properties and is in her fifth season with the program. While she said that hunting in the parks is “completely safe and helps cut down on accidents,” she said some residents do complain about the presence of hunters in parks where people walk and bike and where dogs run free.
St. Romaine encouraged hunters to take “the high road” in dealing with fellow park users, encouraging them to display their permits and to recognize that all residents have a right to be on public property.
The program draws more hunters every year. When it started in 2004, 170 hunters registered. That number could reach more than 300 this year. At the last orientation session on Thursday, more than half the people in the room raised their hands to indicate if they were new to the program.
The 2008 season runs from Sept. 15 to Nov. 14 and from Nov. 26 to Jan. 15.