After considering a proposal by a Mebane dentist, the Durham City Council voted 6-0 at its Nov. 4 meeting to approve an ordinance allowing archery hunting inside the city limits during deer seasons set by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

Back in August, the Council held a public hearing to discuss the proposal that will allow hunters to use bows and arrows or crossbows during deer seasons in certain parts of the city, such as in woods near residential neighborhoods.

Eric Steinbicker, a Mebane dentist, spoke to the Council after noticing dead deer on the side of the road during trips to Southpoint mall.

“Durham is now the largest North Carolina city to allow urban archery, and (it) will open up a lot of opportunity to hunt to city residents,” Steinbicker was quoted in a news report. “It will also hopefully allow a lot of deer donations to local Durham food banks and reduce deer-car collisions.”

Don O’Toole, Durham’s city attorney, verified that the Council didn’t vote to join the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Urban Archery Program but instead chose to allow hunting with long bows, compounds, recurves or crossbows during the Central deer season, which begins in mid-September and lasts until Jan. 1.

“I’ve been working with Durham to get this type of season for several months,” said Jason Allen, a wildlife biologist with the Commission.

According to the amended Durham City Code Sections 6-3 and 46-21, a hunter may use archery equipment “on his or her own property if he or she has on his or her person a valid North Carolina hunting license (or qualifies for an exemption from licensing), or on the property of another in their absence if he or she has on his or her person both a valid N.C. hunting license (or qualifies for an exemption from licensing) and written permission from the property owner or the property owner’s authorized agent or manager. Parcels or tracts of land that are either owned by a person engaged in deer archery or for which that person has been given written permission to hunt shall be referred to as areas of consent’.” 

“The ordinance became effect immediately on Nov. 4,” O’Toole said.

Archery equipment is allowed during seasons designated as muzzleloader and gun seasons, as well as the archery-only season.

The Commission helps communities set up “Urban Archery” hunting during a special, month-long season from mid-January through mid-February. Forty-four municipalities are currently in the program.

"In Chapel Hill, they implemented this three years ago, and their deer-car collisions have dropped 16 percent," Councilman Don Moffitt said. "In Durham, in the same time, our deer-car collisions are up 23 percent."

Durham averages about 300 deer-car collisions annual. Statewide the annual number is around 19,500, more than twice the average in the 1990s. North Carolina ranks 21st nationally in deer-car wrecks, and drivers face a 1-in-135 chance of hitting a deer. The odds are higher in November during the whitetail mating season.

With $2,500 the average repair bill for a vehicle involved in a deer collision, such accidents cost insurance companies $48.75 million per year.

The Durham proposal didn’t escape detractors.

Councilwoman Diane Catotti said she wanted to register her “personal dissatisfaction with the item, but I will be voting yes because I don’t need to block it.”

She opposed urban archery, she said, on the basis of safety and inhumane treatment of deer and residents actually seeing hunters tracking deer. She apparently missed the part of the ordinance that includes several restrictions to hunters, including ladder stands at least 10 feet off the ground on at least five acres of land with a 250-foot boundary.

Hunters also must get permission to hunt from private landowners or at city property, if it opens some public land to archery hunting.

Bowhunters who wish to take part in archery hunting within Durham city limits must contact the city via email at www.durhamnc.gov or by telephone at 919-560-4222.

Steinbicker (ericsteinbicker@gmail.com) said he wants to document, as much as possible, deer harvested inside the city limits to show the council that archery hunting is effective in reducing deer-car crashes. He wants to correlate archery kills with DOT deer-car collision figures to see how much hunting reduces these accidents.

The council will revisit the ordinance in two years to judge if it’s working or needs to be abandoned.

Statewide urban archery season dates are Jan. 11-Feb. 15, 2014.