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City-sponsored deer hunt will take place later this month in Hudson

A special archery hunt to reduce the city of Hudson's deer population will coincide with Wisconsin's regular bow season that begins Sept. 18.

Sixteen expert archers will hunt deer on city-owned land and some private parcels over the course of the season that ends Jan. 31, 2011.

The Hudson City Council approved the program on a 5-1 vote last April.

The city has entered into an agreement with River Valley Deer Management, a company led by Hudson businessman Lon Feia, to conduct the hunt free of charge.

Last year, River Valley conducted a similar hunt in North Hudson that harvested 23 antlerless deer and was hailed as a success by village officials.

The group will be returning to North Hudson for another hunt this season.

"We're serious archers who are promoting bow hunting as a management tool to municipalities," Feia said when contacted by phone last Friday.

He emphasized that each of the 16 hunters (including the six River Valley partners and 10 associates) have completed a bow hunting certification course, passed a proficiency test and promised to follow high standards regarding safety, ethics and shot selection.

"This is not recreational sport hunting. It is a deer reduction program," Feia said. "All of our archers understand and have signed paperwork saying they will adhere to our rules and regulations, which say safety is first no matter what."

He said the maximum distance of a shot would be 20 yards and that hunters would set up in areas away from where people are.

"We won't be sitting over a picnic table. We want to be away from human disturbance," he said.

Past Hudson mayor Tom Redner chaired an ad hoc committee that reviewed River Valley's plans for the hunt and had the opportunity to raise concerns about it.

The other committee members were Public Works and Parks Director Tom Zeuli, Police Chief Marty Jensen, Park Board member Pat Casanova and citizen Kevin Hartman.

"I think they were all met," Redner said of the committee's concerns. It met twice.

He said the committee didn't make any city properties off limits, although some parcels are too small for hunting on them to be feasible.

No restrictions were placed on the hours of the hunt, either - other than those that apply to the regular bow season, Redner said.

Hunting is allowed from half an hour before sunrise to half an hour after sunset.

Feia said the most likely times that River Valley archers will be hunting are early in the morning and around sunset.

"Controversy is our enemy," he said. "What we want is for it to be like it was last year in North Hudson. People didn't even know (the hunters) were there."

He said River Valley got thank you letters from people following the North Hudson hunt saying that, for the first time in years, they had been able to grow flowers and gardens without the deer damaging them.

Asked about the necessity of the hunt in the city, Redner replied: "Being a frustrated gardener, yes, I am confident there is a need for this. There are probably four to five times the number of deer around here than can be supported by the environment."

According to Redner, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimates there are 80 deer per square mile in Deer Management Unit 60M, in which Hudson is located. The area is suited for a population of about 20 per square mile, he said.

"I can personally testify to that fact," Redner said of the reported deer overpopulation. "I see them running around here in groups of nine or 13 - whole families of them. They cross the Seventh Street hill constantly. I've seen them crossing Ninth Street. I've seen them all over town. They come in our backyard even."

Redner lives on Wisconsin Street.

The goal of the program isn't to kill all the deer, he said, but to reduce their numbers to a level where they aren't doing great damage to gardens and natural vegetation.

"I think there is overwhelming public support for it," Redner said. "Sure, there's going to be negative feelings and some people who don't want it."

City property owners can invite hunters onto their land through River Valley's website,

People can also request a harvested deer through the website. Unprocessed deer are free. There's a $75 charge for having them processed.

Twelve deer have been claimed so far, according to Feia. He said any deer that aren't spoken for will go to area food shelves.

Last spring, Feia told the city's Park Board that his group expects to harvest between 50 and 70 whitetails.