Council to consider deer hunting in city limits
The Fairfield City Council will consider whether to allow hunters to kill deer in town at its next meeting Monday.
The Fairfield Police Department has proposed opening a short deer season to take place in late December and early January to hunt deer in select locations on the west side and south side of town.
If approved, the hunts would be confined to bows and would occur in three places: on ground owned by the Fairfield Economic Development Association between Jefferson County Park and the Jefferson County Fairgrounds; on land owned by the city east of the tennis courts by the middle school; and on land owned by the school district east and south of the baseball field by the middle school.
To allow the hunts, the council would have to amend its code of ordinances, which forbids residents from firing any sort of projectile, including a slingshot, in the city limits. This would be the first time the city has allowed bow hunting in town.
The trial hunts would occur Dec. 28-29 and Jan. 4-5. Participating hunters would 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. They would also need to purchase deer tags just as if they were hunting deer in any other location. The police department wants to have four or five hunters participate.
Fairfield Police Chief Julie Harvey said the department is taking great pains to ensure no humans are harmed during the hunt. For example, the hunters must stay 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.
Lt. Colin Smith is a frequent deer hunter and will participate in the trial hunts this winter. He said the proposed hunting grounds are places that are rarely visited by people even in the summer since no trails go through them. That is why he is confident no humans will be put at risk during the hunt in the dead of winter.
The hunters will target does in hopes of reducing the deer population for years to come. Harvey and Smith said they have noticed the deer population grow steadily in the past five to 10 years. In just the last couple of years, the police have received more and more complaints from residents who have seen deer ravage their flowers and vegetables.
The city council has sought to curtail the deer population in the past year by adopting an ordinance prohibiting residents from feeding deer. However, Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Greg Harris informed the public safety committee the deer will continue to enter the city limits because there are no predators here.
Harvey said Jefferson County Park began allowing deer hunting a few years ago. She said hunters harvested a large number of deer the first year, but the number harvested has dropped off since then. She said the deer know it’s not safe to be in Jefferson County Park, which is why they’ve come to town. She also said few hunters have applied to hunt in the park.
A creek runs east and west south of the high school baseball field, and that is where deer have beaten a path, Harvey said. She added that deer seem ever more brazen about approaching homes and being near humans. Police have received reports of deer eating flowers on porches and back decks.
The number of deer in the county has remained high in recent times because the hunters are nowhere close to harvesting their quota. The DNR allows Jefferson County hunters to harvest 2,150 antlerless deer, and local hunters have been well below that limit, Harvey said.
Smith said he hopes the hunters will harvest about 20 deer during the in-town hunts this winter. The hunters are also going to try to count the deer they see to get a better idea of just how many there are in town.
The cost of a tag for the first deer is $28.50. It costs $13 per tag for every deer after the first.
Smith said he plans to donate the deer he shoots to the Help Us Stop Hunger program. The HUSH program is a collaborative effort between Iowa hunters, the Food Bank of Iowa and the DNR to provide deer meat to people in need.
Harvey said members of the Elks donate the deer hides they harvest to make leather goods for disabled veterans.