Winston-Salem could become the largest city in North Carolina to provide an urban bowhunting season for deer.

The slope down to the creek from
Carolyn Fay’s house in southwest Winston-Salem is one of the most charming
facets of the place.

The winding streets in her 1980s-era
subdivision off Burke Mill Road promote a feeling of seclusion even though the
houses are wedged closely together. But Fay’s place at the edge of the
development accesses a little piece of urban wilderness along the banks of
Burke Creek, which runs between the subdivision and a cluster of sylvan medical
offices across the west bank. The frogs make a natural symphony when they breed
in the spring. And once, Fay spotted a blue heron stepping along the streambed.

The creek plays a vital role in the
city’s hydrology, flushing out stormwater runoff from Hanes Mall and Kate B.
Reynolds Hospice Home, while also providing a thoroughfare for deer wandering
upstream. Fay, who retired after 30 years as a costume designer in the dance
department at UNC School of the Arts, pointed to a set of deer hooves in the
wet ground near the creek on a recent weekday morning.

The deer ravaged her garden, wiping
out lettuce, asparagus and tomatoes, along with summer crops of cucumbers,
green beans and snap peas. She finally secured the garden with 6-foot horse
fence from Tractor Supply Co., but only after unsuccessfully installing three
ultrasonic yard sentinels with rabbit fence that proved useless, and military-grade
wire, which the deer just barged through.

In addition to eating Fay’s garden,
the deer are also causing a hazard for motorists. Several months ago, Fay said,
a neighbor hit a deer that lay on Burke Mill Road for three days attracting
buzzards before it was removed.

Fay isn’t a hunter and she isn’t
interested in killing deer, but she started questioning whether a bowhunting
season in the city limits would be a solution to her problem. She reached out
to the NC Wildlife Resource Commission. Whatever concerns she might have
harbored about safety were quickly allayed.

“Talking to them made me not be
afraid,” Fay said. “I thought it sounded like a reasonable, safe and humane

Although Fay lives in the Southwest
Ward, which is represented by Councilman Dan Besse, her idea caught the
interest of Councilman James Taylor, the Southeast Ward representative who
chairs the Public Safety Committee.

Taylor touted the proposal as a
recreational opportunity for residents in an interview with City Beat.

“One thing I like about
Winston-Salem is no matter where you live and what you’re into, there’s
something for you,” he said.

“I represent a district that has an
urban core, but also has a rural component,” he added. “Several years ago, we
annexed people who might enjoy hunting.”

Councilwoman DD Adams, Taylor’s
colleague in the North Ward, also enthusiastically embraced the proposal.

“I believe we can do something good
here, provide protein for families that can’t afford to go get — whether it’s
steak or Angus or whatever it is,” Adams said during a committee meeting in
January. “I also believe we can help feed the homeless in this way, to go give

“I definitely plan to get me some
bow lessons,” she added, “because I’m going for it.”

Although the details aren’t fully
worked out, Fay said she would like to see a provision in the program for
ensuring that some portion of the harvest helps address hunger.

“If we want this to go over as a
beneficial act — maybe you keep one [deer] and give one,” she said.

The nonprofit North Carolina Hunters
for the Hungry allows hunters to donate legally harvested deer to processors,
which in turn provide ground venison to women’s shelters, soup kitchens and
church pantries to provide food to underserved individuals and families. The
nonprofit reimburses the processors for labor. Among 18 processors across the
state that participate in the program, the two that are closest to
Winston-Salem are in Greensboro and Madison. According to the nonprofit,
hunters donated more than 1,000 deer last year, yielding more than 20 tons of ground

Councilman John Larson, a member of
the Public Safety Committee who represents the South Ward, said he remains
skeptical of the proposal. He questioned how the city would provide enforcement
for minimum acreage guidelines, while noting that the city doesn’t employ game
wardens. He said he also worries about the potential for wounded deer to wander
across property lines and discomfort residents who may not appreciate hunting.

Taylor said he plans to bring the
proposal up for a vote at the next Public Safety Committee meeting in March. If
at least two out of four members of the committee — which also includes Mayor
Pro Tem Vivian Burke and Councilman Jeff MacIntosh — approve the measure, it
would advance to the full council for consideration.

If city council votes to allow
bow-hunting, hunters would be required to shoot down from raised platforms to
avoid the risk of stray arrows endangering neighbors.

A total of 61 municipalities in
North Carolina allow bowhunting during the urban archery season, from Jan. 12
to Feb. 17, including King and Lewisville in Forsyth County; and Jamestown, Oak
Ridge, Pleasant Garden, Stokesdale and Summerfield in Guilford County.
Winston-Salem would be by far the largest city to participate in the program,
with almost three times the population of Concord, the current leader.

Elkin, a town of about 4,000 people
that straddles Surry and Wilkes counties on the Yadkin River, was one of the
first to allow bowhunting, beginning in 2004 or 2005, according to Town Manager
Brent Cornelison.

“The issue at the time was that we
were seeing an overpopulation of deer,” he said. “A lot of them were getting
hit on the road. It was causing a lot of problems with eating landscaping.”

There was concern at first because
people didn’t know what to expect. But Cornelison said he’s received no
complaints about the program, and the hunters tend to be inconspicuous. Most
residents don’t even realize the town has an urban archery season, he said.

“Most of the hunters are doing it
for food and wildlife management, not for sport,” Cornelison said. “They’re
really good about not being seen. You’re using a bow, so you don’t hear
gunshots. They’re good hunters, and they’re very respectful.”

Cornelison emphasized that Elkin has
a lot of woodland, and people need to determine whether urban bowhunting is
right for their municipalities based on each one’s unique factors.

In Winston-Salem, much of the open
space clusters along the city’s major stream systems, including Muddy Creek
arcing across the west, and Salem Creek, which cuts a diagonal southwesterly
path across the south end. The two-stream system’s many tributaries include
Burke Creek, which flows past Carolyn Fay’s house. The streams also provide a
thoroughfare for the deer.

Forsyth County property records show
dozens of sizable properties along Salem Creek, many as big as four acres and
at least one at more than 20 acres, that are owned by real estate companies,
private investors, a railroad company and the city.

Some municipalities that participate
in the state’s urban archery program like North Wilkesboro allow hunting on
public property; others, like Elkin, do not. City Manager Brent Cornelison said
Elkin prohibits bowhunting on town property because it’s too confusing for
hunters to differentiate between types of town property: Hunting in a cemetery
might be okay, as long as there wasn’t a funeral; hunting in a public park
would never be safe. Regardless, state law requires hunters to get permission
from the property owner.

Elkin has no minimum acreage
requirement. Council members in Winston-Salem are contemplating a restriction
to lots that are a minimum of two, or maybe even three acres.

Randy Hendrix, a bowhunter who lives
about a mile outside of Winston-Salem on the southeastern periphery, said he
would gladly take the opportunity to hunt inside the city limits if he were
able to find a property owner who would grant permission.

“I really think it’s a good idea,”
said Hendrix, who has been bowhunting for about 40 years. “They’re overpopulated
even in the areas we can hunt. It’s bound to be even triple that in the areas
we can’t hunt in the city.” The fact that the urban archery season falls at a
different time of the year would also expand opportunities for hunters and
processors, he said.

Hendrix said he’s seen five deer
killed by cars within a half-mile of his house in the past month.

Considering that deer are nocturnal,
most people don’t realize how many there are, he said.

“I guarantee if you put a trail camera
out, they would see 10 deer, not just one,” Hendrix said. “There’s way more
deer than people realize. You don’t realize how big the population is. You’re
not going to do away with them; it’s going to make them more healthy.”

Join the First Amendment Society, a membership that goes directly to funding TCB‘s newsroom.

We believe that reporting can save the world.

The TCB First Amendment Society recognizes the vital role of a free, unfettered press with a bundling of local experiences designed to build community, and unique engagements with our newsroom that will help you understand, and shape, local journalism’s critical role in uplifting the people in our cities.

All revenue goes directly into the newsroom as reporters’ salaries and freelance commissions.

⚡ Join The Society ⚡