Reasons for Granting Access
Landowners have a right to protect themselves and their property from the damages that deer cause. Under Virginia’s strong trespass laws, landowners have the right to grant or deny access to their properties. With those rights, landowners decide who may help them protect against deer damages. Landowners’ decisions to grant access for hunting or track/retrieve will determine whether deer can be controlled sufficiently to reduce damages to tolerable levels.
Access to Hunt
There are several reasons for granting access to hunt:
- For many landowners, the most visible and immediate damage is browsing of gardens and landscape plantings. Harvesting deer reduces browsing of gardens and plants on neighbors’ properties as well as their own.
- Virtually everyone who has lived in deer country understands the potential for property damage and personal injury from vehicle collisions with deer. Regardless of where they live, the driving public will benefit from landowners’ granting access to harvest deer.
- Most people understand there is some connection between deer, ticks, and Lyme disease. But the connection between deer numbers and Lyme disease in humans is indirect as discussed in Deer Damages. However, when deer populations are significantly reduced, it is possible that people who work or play in woods or fields will run less risk of Lyme disease. Dogs and horses may benefit also.
- The least visible damage to landowners and the public is degradation of habitat for other animals. Most people can’t look at a woodlot and know which plants deer have removed. Few people know which plants are missing from suburban woods or which animals are absent due to lack of suitable habitat. However, the “browse line” in woods below which deer have eaten understory plants is obvious in some places. And the spread of invasive plants is highly visible and can be attributed, in part, to over-browsing of native plants by deer.
But not every property, even sizable ones, will be suitable for hunting. The page following this one, Landowners/Property Qualification, lists minimum criteria for Green Fire to assign archers to hunt your property.
Understand that a minimally acceptable stand location is not necessarily a good stand location. Good stands are located within feeding areas, within refuges, or along trails that deer use to move between feeding areas and refuges. Feeding areas can be any woods, field, yard, garden, or orchard where food is seasonally available. Refuges are usually woods, preferably with shrubs, vines, downed trees or other near-ground cover where deer can rest.
To better understand stand locations, consider the following:
- Suburban archers almost always hunt from tree stands where the maximum arc from left to right is about three-quarters of a circle.
- The maximum distance between tree stand and deer is 20 yards for compound bows and 30 yards for crossbows, but only if the path is clear of any vegetation or other obstruction. Consider an average of 25 yards.
- The area in which an arrow or bolt will strike ground, the range, is only about a third of an acre.
- Deer have to pass through a range in order to be harvested.
Thus, a one-acre parcel may have several good stands with overlapping ranges, all with high probabilities of deer passing through as illustrated by the diagram below. On the other hand, a five-acre parcel may have no suitable stands due to absence of refuge, feeding area, or trails or due to lack of trees or other elevated platforms.
The number of good, accessible stands needed for successful deer management is also affected by seasonal changes in deer movements. In winter when deer are browsing tree branches, deer will move in different parts of a terrain than in summer when they are eating wildflowers and grasses, which is different from where they move in fall when they are breeding and eating berries, seeds and nuts. Archers need to change stands during a year to go where the deer are.
Not every property that harbors good stand locations must be hunted, but the more properties where access is granted to hunt, the more successful deer management will be over time. The challenge is to secure access to a sufficient density of properties that have good stand locations allowing archers to move to where deer will be.
Access to Track and Retrieve
Access to good stand locations is critical, but it is only part of the picture. Indeed, access to a much larger area is required to track shot deer. This is because even fatally shot deer may run more than a hundred yards before succumbing. The area within 100 yards of a stand is 6.5 acres compared to the third of an acre range where a deer may be shot. The area within 200 yards of a stand is 26 acres.
Archers are required by law to make a reasonable effort to track and retrieve deer they strike. They are also required to have permission to enter private property. If they don’t have permission to access a property in advance, they must take time during the hunt to find the resident and get permission. Hence, granting archers advanced permission to track and retrieve shot deer is an important contribution to successful hunts. The smaller the properties in the vicinity of a stand, the more residents may need to be found and the greater will be the benefit of obtaining permissions in advance.
What if advanced permission to track and retrieve is not arranged? First, an archer will have less success tracking if he/she has to stop at each property line to find and talk with a resident, then return to pick up the trail. More trails will be lost and more deer will be wasted. Also, the time it takes to talk with residents is extra time that a shot deer may be exposed to residents or others who may be offended. Respectful archers will avoid such situations when possible. Respectful landowners will grant access for track and retrieve even if they do not grant access for hunting.
What if a property owner refuses to grant permission? In addition to ethical reasons, practical landowners will also grant access for tracking and retrieval because, should a deer expire on their property and the landowner refuses access to the archer to retrieve it, the landowner will end up with the responsibility of making beneficial use of the deer as the law requires.