Columbus Looks To Shut Down Bowhunting

Gun Rights

The city of Columbus recently discussed implementing a ban on bowhunting for deer hunting in Columbus and Muscogee County on any tract of land that is less than 10 acres. The issue came up for discussion on Feb. 9, and it’s expected to come up for more discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 23 at 5:30 pm. in the Trade Center.

Hunters need to act now!

Since the city of Columbus and Muscogee County is a unified government, this ordinance, if passed, would cover 217 square miles could adversely impact the property and hunting rights of thousands of people, both urban and rural. Under Georgia state law, local governments have no authority to regulate hunting—only DNR can do that. However, they can attempt to implement weapons-discharge ordinances. If a city or county bans the discharge of bows and crossbows, hunters could be shut out… along with school archery programs, 3D archery clubs and people who just participate in archery for fun.

During the meeting on Feb. 9, Mayor Skip Henderson said, “I’m against bowhunting on anything that quantifies a neighborhood. I just think it’s too dangerous. There is no real clear marking sometimes on where your property line ends. If you’re a hunter and see that big buck going by, and you finally have a chance, you’re not going to go measure which yard he is. I think if you’re a hunter, there’s tons of hunting land throughout all the counties around Muscogee County. This won’t make me a favorite of some of my buddies who hunt, but to me there are too many other options if you want to engage in that hobby.”

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Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson.

Councilman Glenn Davis, who serves District 2 on the Columbus City Council, proposed the motion that would outlaw the archery hunting of deer on properties less than 10 acres in size.

This entire line of discussion comes because a homeowner invited some archery hunters to her property, and they shot a deer. The wounded deer escaped somewhere to an adjoining property. The hunter went to the homeowner’s door to ask permission to look for the deer, which is exactly what he should have done to avoid any trespassing issues. However, that resident—the one resident—was not happy that deer archery hunting was taking place near their home. That one resident voiced their concern and displeasure on social media and suggested that the city should take action to reduce archery deer hunting in Columbus. They contacted Councilman Davis, and he brought forth the motion below.

Section 14-68.1 to read as follows: “Sec. 14-68.1. – Discharging air guns, crossbows, etc.; permission required; bow hunting minimum acreage. (a) It shall be unlawful for any person to discharge any air gun or air pistol, or any longbow, crossbow, compound bow, or any other type of bow designed to discharge arrows, in any of the streets or sidewalks of Columbus, Georgia or in any of the lots thereof unless permission for the discharge of such devices has been given to the person discharging same by the owner of the property on which said devices are discharged, and unless the discharging of same is so controlled that no pellet, shot, arrow, or any matter so discharged shall cross the property line of the person granting such permission. (b) In addition to the requirements of subsection (a) it shall be unlawful to hunt with any longbow, crossbow, compound bow, or any other type of bow designed to discharge arrows on any property less than ten (10) acres in size.”

During the discussion of the issue, Councilman Davis said archery hunting was a public safety issue and should not take place on small properties.

District 4 Councilwoman Toyia Tucker expressed support for the veterans who were hunting near her property, and she supported their right to do so, even though she liked to see the deer in the area. She felt like the issue should be more fully explored.

Mayor Henderson did add that the police department was unaware there was a problem with deer archery hunting in Columbus.

It was mentioned by Councilman Davis that arrows found on the street or the sharp-bladed arrow inserts might be a problem, but there is no evidence that this has ever been a problem in Columbus, in Georgia or anywhere in the USA. It seems a much more pressing issue is the needles from syringes from homeless drug addicts that are in many of our urban areas that can harbor aids, hepatitis and other diseases…

The next meeting to discuss this issue is set for Feb. 23 as a first reader, which allows public input, but no final action can be taken until the second reader is scheduled for March 9, 2021.  The Feb. 23 meeting is at 5:30 p.m. at the Columbus Trade Center, located at 801 Front Avenue in Columbus.

Steve Smith, the owner of the Archery Connection, a full-service archery shop in Columbus at 7607 Veterans Parkway, has taken a lead role in this issue and can be contacted by emailing archeryconnection@yahoo.com. Jimmy Harper, the GON Hunt Advisor for Muscogee and Harris counties, is also taking an active role in this issue. Columbus Councilman Glenn Davis is proposing the ordinance, and he can be contacted at glenndavis@columbusga.org.

WRD’s Georgia’s Deer Management Plan 2015-2024 states that contrary to popular belief, county and municipal governments are not authorized to regulate hunting. Georgia law (OCGA §27-3-1) is specific regarding the authority to regulate hunting with authority given solely to the DNR Board. Local ordinances that regulate hunting (e.g., include language so broad as to prohibit the lawful discharge of firearms, that deliberately prohibit hunting, or extend beyond firearms to include archery equipment) are contrary to the authority provided for in OCGA §27-3-1. While provisions exist in OCGA §27-3-1 allowing political subdivisions to reasonably limit the discharge of firearms for the explicit purpose of “public safety,” this allowance is limited unequivocally to the discharge of firearms. It does not include allowances for prohibitions on discharging archery equipment.

In urban areas like Columbus, where local governments consider alternatives to limit archery hunting, they may find that such efforts could be unconstitutional if challenged in court by a citizen or a pro-hunting group like the National Rifle Association.

It’s no secret even to hunters that deer create issues in urban areas. They eat flowers and run into vehicles daily. To this end, WRD established an 18-member stakeholder group referred to as the Urban Deer Advisory Committee to study urban deer issues. Representatives included those from animal control agencies, conservation organizations, county governments, federal and state agencies, insurance industry interests, legislators, municipal governments and those with public safety interests.

By a comprehensive survey, WRD found that 82% of Georgians support the use of regulated hunting to manage deer populations. Furthermore, most Georgians support the use of hunting to manage deer populations in urban areas and on parks and recreational lands traditionally closed to hunting. Therefore, it is WRD’s intent to encourage and support the use of regulated hunting as the primary tool for managing urban deer populations and minimizing associated conflicts.

Still, some urban policymakers put bowhunting on the back burner of options to control populations and look to non-lethal methods to control deer, things like deer repellent, birth control and trapping and relocating.

Trapping and relocating deer fails to address the central issue of population management. It also requires a significant financial and logistical resource costing $261-567 per deer, according to WRD. In addition, live capture and relocation have led to mortality up to 85% of the time in relocated deer.

Deer repellents can be cost-prohibitive and are not long-term solutions.

For those who believe birth control is the answer, there are no fertility control agents federally approved for the management of wildlife populations in the United States at this time. Contraception methods are labor-intensive, alter deer physiology, may result in unintended reproductive or developmental effects, create unknown public health concerns with regard to human consumption of venison and are expensive. Research reveals an estimated cost of $1,000 per deer to adequately treat a deer herd with contraceptives, thus it is not a solution to too many deer.

A wildlife professional could come in and remove deer, but WRD says that while it could be effective, it is time-intensive and expensive and is only recommended where hunting is not practical.

WRD’s Deer Management Plan Committee emphasized that regulated hunting should be the foremost lethal control method for urban deer population reduction.

A great example of thinning down a deer herd that is way overpopulated has been seen time after time on Georgia State Parks. Successful hunts on Hard Labor Creek, Red Top Mountain, F.D. Roosevelt and a host of others have proven hunters can be effective. The efforts from hunters have restored valuable plant species to the parks and cut deer/auto accidents in the area.

WRD Director Ted Will reached out by letter to Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson and stated, “We have worked directly with other local governments across the State in developing solutions that mutually address the concerns of each. In this spirit of collaboration, WRD would greatly appreciate the opportunity to meet and cooperatively work with the City of Columbus to discuss these issues in greater detail and achieve consensus on a solution that meets our mutual goals.”

He suggested that Mayor Henderson contact John Bowers for further assistance. Bowers is the Special Projects Manager for the Director’s Office, and any governmental agency wishing to discuss urban deer issues is encouraged to contact him at 706.557.3323 or john.bowers@dnr.ga.gov.

Will added that Bowers has extensive experience working with these issues and understands Georgia law relative to hunting issues.

Urban deer issues and cities trying to come up with solutions aren’t new. In the recent past, WSBTV in Atlanta did a fairly well-balanced video.

The entire 3-hour-plus Columbus meeting can be viewed below, but the discussion on the deer archery issue begins at 18 minutes, 30 seconds into the video.

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