Article by: Ben Conley, The Dominion Post
MORGANTOWN — Eight years, 794 deer, 7,235 pounds of donated venison, zero incidents.
For Rick Bebout and Paul Crumrine — respectively the former and current organizers of Morgantown’s annual urban archery hunt — it’s those last two numbers that indicate just how successful the city’s urban hunting program has been.
Bebout managed the urban hunt from its inception in 2011 before handing off to Crumrine for this year’s hunt, which runs from Sept. 7 through Dec. 31 and from Jan. 13-31.
“This is something I’m proud of. I think the city, while I’m sure not everybody is in favor of hunting, when you look at it big picture, I think it’s a program that the city should be very proud of,” Bebout said. “It’s been extremely effective. I know that we’ve had a tremendous impact in specific parts of the city.”
The last official data comes via an infrared aerial deer count from 2016. When compared to a similar flyover in 2011, the number of identified deer groups were down from 156 to 98 and individual deer down from 654 to 264 after five urban hunts.
In 2011, parts of the city were covered in as many as 50 deer per square mile, presenting a danger to drivers and creating competition for food that drove deer into yards to eat whatever plants were available.
“We don’t have current numbers, but anecdotally, we get a lot of landowners who come up and say ‘Hey, I’m seeing fewer deer and I actually have flowers growing, shrubs growing that haven’t been successful in years,’ ” Bebout said. “We hear the same from our hunters. They’re seeing fewer deer when they’re out.”
Bebout went on to say that he’s most proud of the amount of donated venison the hunt has provided for local shelters and non-profits. He said the goal is to break the 8,000 lb. mark with this hunt, explaining “That’s something I’m really pushing for and I know the other guys are as well.”
City Manager Paul Brake provided the 2019 hunt rules during the most recent city council meeting. The rules, including a list of hunt locations, are available on the city’s website, under the “Life in Morgantown” header.
Crumrine said there are about 65 hunters signed up to take part this year. He said there have been no substantive rule changes from last year’s hunt, noting the group maintains communication with property owners and law enforcement in order to keep the hunt incident free.
“We always stress safety. Don’t take a bad shot. Be sure you’re secure in your tree. If there’s any question, don’t take a shot,” Crumrine said. “We want the public to know that we’re being responsible hunters.”
In order to participate, hunters must have a valid West Virginia hunting license; complete the city’s urban hunt application; complete the bowhunter education course and take an archery proficiency test.
A successful hunt, Bebout said, is one in which there is little to no contact between the hunters and the general public.
“It’s pretty common for people to be surprised to learn there are hunters in their neighborhoods,” Bebout said. “They’ll say, ‘Well, I never see them.’ And I say, ‘That’s the point.’ ”