If aldermen adopt the amended Weapons Ordinance at their 6:30 p.m. Dec. 8 meeting, the discharge of arrows and/or bolts will be prohibited within the limits of the Village of Salado.
Alderman Dave Williams discussed the process for the recommended change to the current Firearms Ordinance, which will be renamed the Weapons Ordinance, during a Town Hall meeting attended by about a dozen citizens Dec. 5.
Several requests came in to the Village office asking for aldermen to make hunting deer with bows and arrows illegal in the Village.
The requests came after a Letter to the Editor of the Salado Village Voice in early fall by Dr. Lewis Raney stating that “Archery Season (Deer) opens Oct. 1 and ends Nov. 4 … “Yes, bow hunting in and around Salado is legal. Safety and shooting with caution is always the daily thought process. No one without training should be shooting in the city limits or highly populated areas!”
Dr. Raney in the letter pointed out that the limit per hunter is two does and two bucks. “I would encourage hunters to leave the beautiful bucks in our city. It is well known that this — Bow Hunting — is the cheapest way to help control the overpopulation of Deer. One company has advised us that their charge for sharpshooting will be $250 per deer. This does include processing for the needy. I would also encourage hunters in Bell County to donate as many of their deer as possible to the needy.”
Finally, Raney stated in the Letter to the Editor that the Texas Parks & Wildlife suggested “that Salado harvest 300 deer this year.”
“Although the City is working on plans,” he stated. “they don’t have the money to pay for such a task. Most of the harvest this year will need to be accomplished by individuals and professionals that volunteer.”
“Management of our overpopulation of white tails will be a yearly ongoing issue,” Dr. Raney stated in his letter.
Shortly after that letter appeared, Salado became pockmarked with “No Kill Zone” signs in the yards of local residents and businesses.
“Those signs were more of a political statement than anything else,” one resident said during the Town Hall meeting. “People are against bowhunting in the Village.”
“This isn’t about deer hunting,” Alderman Williams said. “This is about the discharge of bows and arrows in the Village.”
Other than the statement by Kathy Michaels in a Nov. 24 Letter to the Editor that she found five arrows on her Main Street property, there have been no complaints filed with the Village of Salado police about arrows crossing property lines. One complaint was made about a person who was target shooting on his own private property, but the arrows never crossed the property line.
Other anecdotal evidence of hunters has appeared across the social media spectrum, but little evidence of any actual deer hunting within the Village limits — especially illegal hunting across public roads and property lines as propagated by some social media posts — has appeared.
Police chief Jack Hensley told Salado Village Voice that he has had only one complaint of illegal deer hunting in the Village and it was not proved.
As fall moves into winter, residents have reported seeing fewer deer in the Village. Some have attributed this to the publicized and highly-discussed hunting of deer. However, according to grandviewoutdoors.com, the decrease in the sightings of deer in the fall and winter months is more likely attributable to the white tail deer’s instinct to survive the colder weather than to hunting within the Village.
“Whitetails will hide out in dense cover, preferably on the south side of steep hills, to shield themselves from cold,” the website states. “Cedar thickets or pine plantations are classic deer shelters.”
The regulation prohibiting the feeding of deer may have some effect on the numbers, or lack thereof, of deer being seen this fall. Proving that a decrease in the number of deer is attributable to the ban on feeding would be hard to do since there is no baseline number. The deer count conducted by Village volunteers was done after the deer feeding prohibition came into effect.
“Around prime feeding areas, so long as the food lasts, deer will yard-up, standing rump-to-shoulder in a maze of bodies,” the website states. If the prime feeding areas are no longer there, the deer will likely disperse in search of forage.
Regardless of evidence in either direction — that there is a lot of hunting going on in the Village or that there is no hunting going on in the Village — if aldermen adopt the changes Weapons Ordinance, it will in effect make hunting within the Village illegal (because it is already illegal to discharge a firearm of any kind).
However, the prohibition will not apply to animal control officers, destroying a dangerous animal (defined in health and safety code), toy archery equipment, or the discharge of a weapon on a tract of land of 10 acres or more. The tract of land must be more than 1,000 feet from the property line of a public tract of land used for sports and recreation, or a school, day-care hospital or 600 feet from the property line of a residential subdivision or multi-family complex or 150 from a residence of occupied building located on another property.
While the changed Weapons Ordinance may appease those opposed to bowhunting of deer within the Village of Salado, it will not address the initial problem of the growing population of white tail deer in a residential, populated environment.
With the exception of the prohibition on feeding deer, the Village has examined but not pursued options laid out to it by experts from the Texas Parks and Wildlife and other agencies, including other cities that have grappled with the issue.
Community programs that are non-lethal could include Trap and Transport. However, these are expensive and are not always effective. The cost of Trap, Transport and Translocation of deer is estimated by Agrilife extension at $150 to $750 per deer. And not all the deer survive that are transported.
Fertility programs are even more expensive, estimated at between $350 to $1,100 per female.
Lethal approaches could include trap, transport and process approaches, which cost $175 to $350 per deer; individual hunting programs through Land Management plans that cost $85 to $300 per deer and sharpshooter programs that cost $250 or more per deer.
Village officials have stated that they can find no recipients for the TTT permits. Even if they could find a ranch to take the deer, there are few funds available for this program. The Village of Salado set aside $10,000 for the management of the deer population.
TTP permits are also expensive because of FDA regulations on testing the meat of the deer that will be processed and given away.
Even under the Managed Lands Deer Permits that allow additional hunting by licensed hunters (beyond the two bucks and two does) in an area, the regulatory requirements are very stringent and costly.
The Managed Lands Deer Permit (MLDP) program allows landowners involved in a formal management program to have the state’s most flexible seasons and increased harvest opportunities. The program is incentive based and habitat focused.
Participation in the MLDP program requires a written Wildlife Management Plan (WMP). The Village has no Wildlife Management Plan at this time.
Texas Parks & Wildlife works with communities to help them establish programs for managing deer populations through both lethal and non-lethal means.
Among the non-lethal approaches are making the landscape less “palatable” to deer through planting of deer-resistant plants and local regulations prohibiting the supplemental feeding of deer, according to a TP&W document “Living with Overbundant White-Tailed Deer in Texas.”
“Supplemental feeding cannot increase the carrying capacity of an area,” according to the TP&W and Agrilife document. “It can however, artificially sustain populations above the acceptable limits of the natural habitat. In supplementally fed habitats, populations are vulnerable to volatile and unstable population growth and crashes.”
The booklet suggests these non-lethal approaches:
• Fencing of at least 8 feet and electric fences to keep deer off of properties.
• Unpalatable Landscape Plants that will cause deer to go to other areas for forage. Forrest W. Appleton in his article “Coping with the deer by the use of deer resistant plants” on the Aggie horticulture website lists these plants as being not so favored by deer. Visit saladovillagevoice.com for a list of the Unpalatable Landscape Plants.
Other deterrents could include visual, auditory or olfactory. Visual deterrents such as shiny pans, scarecrows, and other items can deter deer from an area, but the deer “quickly habituate to visual deterrent techniques and become less scared of them,” according to the Agrilife document.
Noise making devices can do the same, but may be troublesome to neighbors. Deer acclimate to noise as well in the long term.
Odors can be used to repel deer, according to Agrilife service. “Several commercial repellants are available, but their efficacy is questionable.” Carnivore urines can help keep deer out and there are lists of commercial products to keep the deer away. Some suggest that spreading human hair on the ground near a garden will keep the deer out of it.
Agrilife service states in the resource document that dogs are an effective deterrent for keeping deer out of your yard.
While these approaches may work in your own backyard, how does this affect the rest of the community when some neighbors may be throwing deer corn on the ground and others are throwing human hair on the ground to keep the deer away?