Controlled deer hunting in local parks a good idea
Lake Metroparks bears a striking resemblance to many other Ohio parks systems and communities in trying to get a handle on having too many deer.
Yeah, that’s actually a problem, though for a lot of hapless Ohio deer stalkers it’s an issue they’d enjoy rolling up their sleeves to help resolve.
In Lake Metroparks case, the agency has worked for 11 years in ridding itself of some deer.
Not all, of course, and not all at every unit.
The parks system does this through a controlled hunt via an online lottery drawing with the application portion closing Aug. 16. The catch is that the archery-only program is open to Lake County residents or Lake County business owners only. Which is not an unusual demand, either.
Lake Metroparks’ neighboring parks system – the Geauga Parks District – has a similar residents-only requirement, although the Holden Arboretum – which is located in both counties – does not. But I digress.
Anyway, I reached out to Ben Boyer, the Lake Metroparks’ official who handles the lottery deer hunt for an update on the agency’s lottery plans. That conversation is revealing as to the hunt’s value in helping throttle back on the deer herd found within the parks system along with providing hunting opportunities.
Boyer says that since 2011 when the program began, hunters have trimmed the parks system’s deer herd by 215 animals. That figure includes the 17 antlered and button bucks plus 13 does shot last year.
“We’ve seen a steady uptick in the number of deer being taken over the past few years,” Boyer says.
Lake Metroparks has taken a somewhat different approach than some other hunt-friendly parks systems and communities to encouraging hunters to shoot an animal. Any Lake Metroparks’ successful hunter one year will get an automatic entry for the following year’s hunt.
Thus, for this year’s hunt, 28 of the 105 available three-week slots are already spoken for because that previous figure is the number of successful hunters who bagged a deer last year.
I’ve experienced such requirements elsewhere. When I hunted the Holden Arboretum, the rule was a hunter needed to be successful once every three years to stay in the program.
As for the odds of being drawn, parks systems like Lake Metroparks and the Geauga Parks District see hunters having a generally much better chance of being selected than prospective hunters do with the Ohio Division of Wildlife’s controlled deer hunts.
“We typically see about 300 applicants and have around 100 three-week time slots available, so that’s roughly a 30% chance of being drawn,” Boyer says.
Once an applicant enters the free-entry lottery and is successfully drawn, the next step is to qualify via an archery proficiency test. That stipulation is also pretty typical. I’ve encountered just such a requirement in one of the communities that partially embraces the Holden Arboretum.
Also, impressive for Lake Metroparks is that it asks lottery entrants if they would have difficulty walking one mile. If that’s the case, the agency will assign that individual to a closer-to-the-parking-area stand. The agency even has a handicapped accessible site.
My wife, Bev, and her female hunting buddy two years ago qualified for the handicapped-only site.
Oh, and most Lake Metroparks’ sites have either a ground blind or else a tree ladder stand with some sites having both. Game feeders are likewise frequently provided, which a hunter is responsible for keeping filled. Now that’s service you don’t see with many other controlled access hunt programs.
Before I forget, Lake Metroparks has a separate hunt for veterans with a service-related disability. That is a really great idea that ought to be adopted by more agencies – including the Division of Wildlife for its controlled hunts.
In any event, if your community or county parks system has a controlled access hunt it’d be worth filling out an application. And if it doesn’t, then demand to know why. You own those parks and you’d be doing them a deer-reduction service and yourselves a deer-hunting access favor.