Hunters Now Seek Near-Urban Deer For Low-Cost Family Food

Diminished incomes has caused many hunters who could once afford to go on out-of-state hunting trips to consider hunting closer to home and processing the animals themselves, sometimes even in their own back yards. Even a segment of the out-of-work near-urban population who have never hunted are considering either hunting or salvaging road-killed animals as a way of extending their family food budgets.

During the 2009-2010 hunting season every state in the nation reported a rise in the sale of hunting licenses, which many attributed to some of the nation’s 8,000,000 unemployed taking to the to woods. This increased averaged about 3-percent and was higher in states like Michigan that had unemployment rates of over 10 percent.

Deer populations nationwide are generally at healthy levels, with a few local exceptions. In some eastern states such as in Virginia, Pennsylvania and Georgia extended sessions are being allowed to help reduce the problem of automobile-deer collisions. Each year in the United States there are some 1,000,000 deer-vehicle collisions, 10,000 injuries and about 100 deaths.

Other problems cause by overpopulation of deer in near urban areas include landscape browsing, the spread of Lyme Disease that is caused by deer ticks and even occasional attacks by buck deer during rut. Although deer are most often cited as causing problems, geese, black bear, alligators and wild hogs are also listed among wildlife species causing adverse resident-wildlife encounters.

Last year Texas, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and part of Michigan allowed the use of the crossbow during their designated deer archery seasons. The crossbow, particularly when shot from an elevated stand, is a very safe and effective tool for taking urban, even backyard, deer. Last year, for example, I took two deer from a friend’s backyard in Georgia and a 200 pound wild hog from my own property with a crossbow.

Crossbows are valuable wildlife control instruments because they offer only a single shot opportunity, they are relatively quiet, are very effective when the arrows are properly placed, easy to learn to shoot, and most importantly, allow for very precise shot placement at close range. The merits of the crossbow as a hunting instrument in the principal reason that more states are allowing it use – particularly for urban deer control.

Using either conventional archery equipment or crossbows to take deer within 20 miles of where a person lives and self-processing the deer, can bring meat costs down to the order of 25-cents a pound. Even if the price of the crossbow, arrows and resident licenses are factored in, the processed meat costs is less than $2.00 a pound, assuming that three deer are taken per hear and the costs of the crossbow is averaged over three years.

In my home state of Georgia, where it is legal, the last road-killed deer that I put in my freezer was a very nearly 100 percent meat recovery (I typically average 70 percent for me and the remainder for my pets.) at 11-cents a pound. This price included the energy costs of retrieving the deer and boiling its bones for my dogs. The gut pile was put out for the buzzards.

Residents who live in cities where deer are a problem, can both help reduce this problem as well as providing someone with needed food by designating areas for archery hunting. One model is of a neighborhood consortium where safe stand locations are designated, the deer is taken to a processor and any member of the consortium who wants deer meat is awarded it for their share of the processing costs.

Deer meat does have to be cooked differently than beef because of its low-fat content, but once these skills are learned it can be fit for a queen, as it was for Queen Elizabeth II’s 80th birthday dinner. The British Royals very often serve deer to visiting heads of state. If they can eat it, I think that more of us can eat a little deer meat too.