By Joel Hall
For 13 years, the Clayton County Water Authority has enlisted the help of archers to silently control the local deer population. Starting Monday, the water authority will begin accepting applications for its 2009 Archery Deer Hunting Season, scheduled to take place in the fall.
Hunting will take place on the lands of the E.L. Huie Natural Treatment System, off Freeman Road in Jonesboro, on the weekends of Sept. 18-20, Oct. 23-25, Oct. 30 - Nov. 1, Nov. 6-8, Nov. 13-15, and Nov. 20-22. Applications will be accepted until Sept. 30, and permission to hunt will be granted through a lottery, water authority officials said. Preference will be given to Clayton and Henry county residents. Lottery winners will be selected the week of Aug. 3.
Jep Palmer, recreation area coordinator for the water authority, said about 30 hunters from the general public will be selected for each weekend hunt.
Palmer said the authority began implementing the archery hunting season in 1996, at a time when the deer population was growing out of control. He said overpopulation created problems for motorists, as well as the local vegetation.
In 1996, "there was estimated to be 100 deer per square mile, which is extremely high," Palmer said. "Deer have no natural predators, so if uncontrolled, they will exceed their carrying capacity. We were having a lot of collisions along [U.S. Highway] 19/41, Noah's Ark and Freeman Road. We consulted with the Department of Natural Resources and talked about what kind of control measures we could do."
In the late 1990s, the water authority hired professional rifle hunters with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to bring down the deer population significantly, Palmer said. Eventually, the water authority opted to make the hunting season open specifically to local archers, he said.
According to Palmer, bows and arrows are much safer for hunters, and tolerated much better by nearby residents.
"Clayton County is a pretty urbanized county, even prior to us doing this," Palmer said. "A high-powered rifle bullet can travel up to a mile. An arrow, even without a down wind, is only going to travel about 40 or 50 yards. It's a much safer alternative with a lot of people in the woods."
Palmer said that in 13 seasons of archery deer hunting, local hunters have killed 1,855 deer. He said while locals enjoy the sport, the hunting season is more about the water authority being responsible with the land it owns.
"It's not only our job to manage the water, but the resources on the land," Palmer said. "There's quite a few hunters who enjoy [the season]. The professionals do a good job, but it is less of a headache to let the public do it."
Applications may be downloaded at www.ccwa.us, or picked up at the entrance gates to the Shamrock/Blalock Recreation Area or J.W. Smith Recreation Area. For more information, call (770) 603-5605.