Suburban Opportunities for Whitetail Hunting

Many cities throughout the US offer deer hunting opportunities on local properties, such as city parks or commercial properties such as nurseries. To assist in deer population issues a state biologist is first consulted who will study the property, observe the damage and make population size estimations. This is often done by spotlighting at night at various intervals, aerial surveys and occasionally use of game cameras in specific locations. Then the state biologist’s plan for deer management starts with limiting the population of does to desirable levels and predictions of repopulation. The number of permits available is based what the optimal herd count is determined to be. To understand why these programs become necessary within suburban areas you must become aware of the destruction of residential or commercial property and products. Examples of what is affected would include decorative landscaping, truck farm food products, orchards, tree farms and farther out of city limits row crops. Traffic safety issues are also an increased risk with a higher population density of deer. Areas where housing developments and commercial business parks have replaced and encroached upon the deer’s natural woodland habitats become prime areas for these types of problems. These are also now areas where no hunting has been allowed so deer herd numbers have exploded and have begun to exceed the land’s carrying capacity resulting in decreased quality of natural vegetation and food. In most suburban environments the deer’s natural predators (wolves & mountain lions) no longer exist and coyote numbers are by far fewer. So man must again become part of the food chain to maintain the balance. For those of us who are hunters, this is viewed as our natural place in our world, as part of our heritage and still as a means of putting quality food in our freezer to sustain us. In a society which has lost touch with where food comes from, hunters have always looked at the outdoors for a main source, as well as the family garden. We do not depend upon local grocery stores for our needs to be met and do not need our meat to come prepackaged or labeled.

Advantages to program

  • Professional hunters’ fees often range between $100-$200 per animal taken. But recreational hunters charge nothing.
  • A city tag or local permits may be required. But some states offer these permits free of cost. 
  • The hunters get to keep the meat or donate it.
  • Compared to repellents that must be reapplied, fencing that can be permanent, ugly and costly and relocation of animals, which is rarely feasible- managed hunting methods for an excessive deer population is permanent and effective.
  • In some areas these programs can also bring in hunters which can boost local economies.
  • They can offer a means of promoting hunting. They can also provide youth/mentor hunting opportunities without having to drive very far.
  • Proper deer numbers reduces the threat of lime disease and other disease that can effect an over population of deer. Deer populations can double within a year, so when a population issue becomes apparent, the quicker that action is taken the better.

Aspects of each state’s and region’s program requirements vary somewhat. I researched several states and came up with a few standard requirements for members of deer management programs.

Most Common Program Requirements

  • NBEF certification for archery only hunting. The large majority of programs were archery only.
  • Persons must pass an archery proficiency test. The number of targets and proficiency percentage varies but is normally between 80% to 90%.
  • Persons must understand and comply with each property requirements as well as any city ordinances and state laws that may also apply.
  • Individuals must agree to complete some sort of reporting survey on property hunted.
  • Tree stand use requirements are normally very specific. They regulate the location, distance between stands, height off the ground, type of stands/steps allowed and duration of stands set. In all cases the use of a safety restraint system is required.
  • The number of hunters allowed on each property is usually limited.
  • As for insurance and liability issues, some groups require an annual fee to cover the cost of individual insurance. Others require a waver be signed by members. In some cases land owners may also require a waver be signed as part of the agreement to have their property managed.

While these programs are the most obviously effective plan of action, getting a deer management program in place can be initially a very difficult and time consuming venture. Several of the issues must be overcome with establishing a local program. They often include liability and safety concerns for both hunters and the public. Social attitudes about wildlife can create resistance by the public, for example some view them as park or back yard pets. Public relations concerns, for example someone seeing an injured animal that was not effectively taken down when it was shot. Or a deer that is fatally injured lying down in an area that is openly visible by the public as it expires. City ordinances must be reviewed, for example Illegal discharge of a firearm or weapon within city limits can become a stumbling block that has to be addressed. In many cases, if deer are taken outside of normal hunting seasons the hunter must be prepared to properly care for and process the meat themselves. This is due to the fact that many butchers will only take deer during certain weeks of the year.

I interviewed Ken Payne, president and founder of Heartland Suburban Whitetail Management in Johnson County, Kansas. He had been working on getting a program started in that county for about 9 years and has finally successfully done so. He provided some additional insight on how their specific program works. It was good to learn that businesses do not have a fee associated with the state to come and review their deer problem. Deer management programs are normally not limited to the state hunting seasons and are available to participate in all year long. Most states have laws that protect hunters from harassment by non-hunters or protestors. The state’s budget can be a factor in whether or not they help communities promote these management programs, but they are normally viewed favorably by the state. Often times each region will have different clubs or organizations, so they are usually local and not state wide. These clubs normally will have meetings for members to attend and stay current with local opportunities. His advice for someone wanting to start a program in their area was to start with a core group of interested individuals, contact local cities and meet with them and contact the state wildlife Dept. of Natural Resources. These programs are often primarily circulated by word of mouth, so it does not hurt to ask questions of your local city or parks, or to approach a local nursery farm to find out if they are involved in a program. You can view their program by going on line at

After reading this article, I hope you are encouraged to learn about your community’s local opportunities.

Written by Synthia Wilson