City council OKs urban deer hunting
An amendment to Fairfield’s deer ordinance was approved Monday at the city council meeting on a 5-1 vote and will allow a restricted number of bow hunters to hunt deer around O.B. Nelson Park and between Jefferson County Park and the Jefferson County Fairgrounds.
The inaugural urban hunt will be conducted on two weekends, Dec. 28-29 and Jan. 4-5, when Fairfield schools will not be in session because of Christmas break.
Council member John Revolinski voted no and Tony Hammes was absent Monday.
The hunters will target does in hopes of reducing the deer population for years to come.
Council member Connie Boyer said she’d spoken with people in the community who didn’t want the deer hunt to go forward, but felt it was in motion and could not be stopped.
Two residents spoke in favor of the urban deer hunt Monday, LaVon Hostetler and Wilma Lewis. Simon Davis spoke against the hunt.
“I know I can’t turn the tide of events, but I’d like to revisit using O.B. Nelson Park as a hunting area,” said Davis. “I know the park will be closed, but there are so many access points and children don’t follow paths. There’s no way you can close down the whole area.”
Police Chief Julie Harvey said a lot of the foot traffic through the area is due to students walking to and from school, and school will not be in session during the hunting weekends.
Hostetler said she hadn’t planned to speak, but pointed out a typical urban deer hunt in other places lasts four months, and no one has ever been hurt.
“We’re talking four days here,” she said.
Mayor Ed Malloy thanked the public for comments and said the council had given an urban deer hunt a lot of thought.
“The city council has been thinking this through for a year and a half,” said Malloy.
He asked Davis if he’s talked with any hunters. Davis said no.
“I did, and my fears were alleviated in talking with hunters,” said Malloy. “It’s different than your warnings we’re hearing.
“Your next step is to talk with someone who has participated in a hunt to ease your concerns,” Malloy told Davis.
Davis said he wasn’t in favor of killing animals and had used the safety issue because he was trying to present something the council could relate to.
Fairfield City Attorney John Morrissey said he reviewed the liability issue six years ago.
“The city isn’t liable for sanctioning a hunt,” Morrissey said. “Just as the DNR isn’t liable for allowing hunting in forests. We’ve been very careful about regulating hunting in the county park for six years. I’m not speaking for or against the ordinance amendment, I wanted to let the council know the city isn’t liable.”
Councilor Michael Halley said the council reviewed other city’s urban deer hunting practices.
“We went with the longest distances away from buildings,” he said.
Hunters will be required to be at least 50 feet from the nearest property line and 75 feet from all buildings. They must shoot their arrows from a stand in a tree so the arrows are always traveling at a downward angle.
Participating hunters have to pass a marksmanship test to prove they are competent with a bow. The test will consist of hitting an 8-inch target eight of 10 times from a distance of 20 yards.
Fairfield Police Department Lt. Colin Smith said interested hunters should contact him for more details. The law center’s non-emergency number is 472-4146.
The bow and arrow proficiency tests can be taken at Whitetail Outdoors in Agency or Fin and Feather in Iowa City, said Smith.
Hunters also need to have a hunting license and purchase deer tags just as if they were hunting deer in any other location. The cost of a tag for the first deer is $28.50. It costs $13 per tag for every deer after the first.
Boyer said residents in city limits cannot target practice in their backyards.
“People can’t put up a target in the backyard and shoot arrows at it,” she said.
“And I ask the hunters to be sensitive to neighbors if dressing an animal at home,” she said. “Do it in the garage, out of sight, and clean up afterwards.”
Councilors held a brief discussion about dropping O.B. Nelson Park from the approved bow hunt areas, but decided to leave it in for this year.