Columbia bow hunting for deer program decreases car wrecks

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COLUMBIA - Justin Romeo drives a little more cautiously than he did a few years ago.

"I was in two accidents caused by deer. I'm trying my best not to let it happen again," he said.

The good news is that car accidents in Columbia caused by deer are much less likely to happen today than they were ten years ago.

In 2004, the City of Columbia reported 49 accidents caused by deer.

That year, the city implemented a bow hunting for deer program to lessen the number of car accidents caused by deer. It allows bow hunting for deer within city limits, both on private property and on certain city owned properties.

In 2011 and 2012, there were only 10 car accidents caused each year by deer within Columbia's city limits.

Romeo said he's happy that there are fewer deer in Columbia.

"I mean, I don't have anything against them, but I'm tired of paying for car repairs," he said.

For John Varvaro, bow hunting for deer means more than just helping decrease car accidents.

"It's wonderful being able to not have to drive out to the middle of nowhere to find deer, or have to own my own property to go hunting," he said.

Varvaro said he hunts primarily on his church's property.

"I actually set up my own stand there, and I've worked on encouraging a number of deer to gather near where I hunt," he said. "So when I got my first deer ever with a bow there, it was really satisfying - I'd done everything myself."

Varvaro said he checked in with the city of Columbia, the Columbia Police Department, and the Missouri Department of Conservation before he began hunting within city limits.

"They said you only need to attend the special orientation classes held in August each year and have a special permit if you're hunting on city property," he said.

The city-owned properties open in certain areas for bow hunting include Grindstone Nature Area, the City Landfill, the Gans Creek Recreation Area, Strawn Park, Atkins Park, SC Fields Sewer Utility, Oakland Church Road property and portions of the MKT Trail near the Scott Boulevard and Jay Dix Station access points.

The city provides an online map for interested hunters.

That makes sense to Varvaro.

"If you're hunting on city-owned property, you need to be even more aware, because more people are around," he said.

Varvaro said one of the most important things for bow hunters to consider is the trajectory of their arrows.

"Most arrows are going to be travelling at about 400 feet per second," he said. "It's really important that you know where you're arrow is going to end up."

City regulations forbids bow hunting for deer closer than 100 feet to any trail or populated area.

"That seems like the minimum distance to me," Varvaro said. "I'd never want to scare anyone while I was hiding in the bushes looking for deer."

Varvaro said that even if a hunter's arrow hits a deer perfectly, the deer could still travel some distance before it falls.

"I think that 100 foot regulation is important, because I don't think the city wants to be disturbing those who may not be such fans of hunting."

Varvaro said, "Not everyone may love hunting. But almost nobody can argue with fewer car accidents. When I called the city inquiring into the program, they actually thanked me for helping to lessen the deer problem."

The bow hunting for deer season runs from Sept. 15 to Jan. 15, with the firearms season open from Nov. 12 to Nov. 22. Hunting with firearms is not allowed on city property.

If someone plans to bow hunt for deer during the firearms season, the Missouri Department of Conservation said they should have a valid firearms license in addition to a bow-hunting license.