Deer hunters who like to fill their freezers with venison will be allowed to do so this fall, as long as they hunt in cities with special urban whitetail hunts.
The state Natural Resources Commission greatly liberalized the bag limits for urban hunts, and introduced incentives that could persuade more sportsmen to participate.
"The bottom line is that these regulations were created to try to help cities and homeowners' associations that have too many deer," said Chris Ryan, supervisor of game management services for the state Division of Natural Resources.
Under the regulations, hunters may take up to seven deer, the first of which must be antlerless. Two of the seven may be antlered bucks.
"The regulations are designed to force hunters to shoot at least one antlerless deer, which is why municipalities have these hunts," Ryan said.
Research has shown that the only way to control a deer population through hunting is to have hunters kill more does than bucks.
Biologists consider the death of a doe to represent the deaths of up to three deer - the doe and the one or two fawns she would have borne the following spring.
The new regulations also allow municipalities that host urban hunts to begin them as early as the second Saturday in September.
"That provision was put in to give guys an extra week of urban hunting," Ryan explained. "Basically it allows archery hunters a chance to go out and put some meat in the freezer before the regular archery season opens."
The regulation changes are also designed to ensure that every municipality in the state has the same regulations. Charleston had already implemented a seven-deer limit.
Rather than become embroiled in a legal battle over home rule, DNR officials decided to change everyone's regulations to match Charleston's.
Deer killed during urban hunts will not count against the bag limits the DNR has established for the state's regular deer seasons.
"Urban hunts are a great opportunity for bowhunters to put some meat in the freezer before the regular deer seasons begin," Ryan said.