While deer have adapted to suburban living, so have archery hunters. Archers throughout Pennsylvania and North America have organized into “Suburban Deer Management Associations” (SDMA) to meet the very special and sensitive requirements of suburban deer management programs.
SDMA’s carefully screen members and develop a comprehensive approach to address seven major concerns of suburban DMP’s: safety, wounding, liability, discretion, organization, female removals and education/communication.
Safety is the primary concern of landowners and SDMA’s. While archery hunting is extremely safe to the non-hunting public SDMA’s are especially cautious and members adhere to a stringent set of rules such as: (1) no hunting is allowed from the ground, only from portable treestands, all shots are therefore towards the ground. (2) shots are kept to a maximum of 20 yards (3) all hunters are required to be certified in bowhunting safety either through the PGC or the International Bowhunter Education Foundation (IBEF).
Some non-recovery of wounded deer will occur in any hunting program no matter how strict and careful. SDMA’s take extra measures to see that wounding rates are very low. Low rates are accomplished by: (1) screening applicants for bowhunting experience and responsibility (2) requiring all participants to pass a skill test (3) high percentage shots only, 20 yard maximum. The two day authorized UMT deer removal/study conducted mostly at Bowman’s Tower, and some private land hunting netted 20 deer with one un-recovered deer (table A).
SDMA’s typically carry a $2,000,000 insurance policy covering landowners and hunters. Additional insurance can be purchased for an additional $500 per $1,000,000 of coverage.
Hunters are required to: (1) remove the entire carcass, including the entrails (2) harvested deer must be transported so they are not visible to the public; (3) the hunters agree to all landowner requirements including hunting days and times (4) parking is permitted only in designated areas with an official parking permit. (5) landowner permission slips must be carried at all times.
Hunters are generally split into management groups with a designated group leader. Group leaders manage the hunters within the group. Management includes: the collection of any required DMP biological data (number, weight, sex, antler measurements, age, pregnancy and lactation), pounds of deer donated to charities, stand locations and days and times hunted. The leader acts as a liaison between hunters in the group and the landowner.
It is critical that any deer reduction program target female deer. SDMA’s often require the removal of between 2 and 10 antlerless deer to be removed/hunter before an antlered deer can be harvested. Of the 20 deer removed in UMT by Eccologix, all were female with the exception of a wounded (likely car collision) antlered deer that was not edible and turned over to the PA Game Commission (table A). Whitetail Associates (WA), a SDMA founded in 1990 has been involved in a 14 year DMP in Schulkill Township, Chester County PA. In 13 years 891 deer have been removed by WA archers, 825 (93%) of which were antlerless. Of the antlerless deer, 78% or 692 deer removed have been female (table B).
SDMA’s work directly with deer management committees and landowners. Lists of authorized hunters are given to police, landowners, PGC officials and Township officials. The list typically includes: name, phone number, vehicle year/make/model/color/license. Representatives regularly attend town meetings to educate the public about the archery program. Group leaders communicate directly with landowners keeping them updated concerning removal progress, hunting times and trespassers. At the conclusion of the hunting season the cooperating landowners receive a comprehensive annual report .
Note: While “Suburban Deer Management Associations” can remove many deer safely and efficiently it is unlikely that enough deer can be removed to satisfy the DMP of most townships.