“It was very concerning thinking that …one of the dogs or my husband or I could get hurt,” Eshpeter said. “Our peace of mind is kind of shot here.”
During the meeting, Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul and City Council members asked officials from the Department of Natural Resources about ways to legally regulate the use of archery equipment in the city. There were few answers to address the issue.
Sandy Springs could require bow hunters pay a licensing fee to hunt deer. Hunters are required to get permission from property owners to hunt on their land or retrieve deer that’s been killed, but according to state law the city cannot prohibit deer hunting.
“If the city creatively developed a law that prohibits hunting, I believe the argument would be it’s unconstitutional and not enforceable,” said John Bowers with DNR’s Wildlife Resources Division.
City Attorney Dan Lee agrees. Hunting on public or private property requires written permission from the landowner. Lee said the issue of deer hunting in local neighborhoods arises periodically.
Two years ago in nearby Dunwoody, residents were alarmed when two deer were found dead of gunshot wounds and a third shot by a bow near residential homes.
Deer hunting is a form of population control, Bowers said. Without the sport, there would be more vehicle collisions with the animal as well as the spread of such infections as lyme disease, he said.
Deer season runs from September to mid-January. As of December 15, a total of 1,136 deer had been killed by bow or firearm in Fulton County this year, Bowers said. And the DNR has no record of problems this year between members of the public and hunters, he said.
Bowers said manufacturers pay federal excise taxes on archery equipment, guns and ammunition used for hunting and the DNR receives some of those funds to use to manage wildlife population.
Similar to Eshpeter, several residents described to City Council their issues with bow hunters.
Resident John Zamer said arrows shot by hunters have been found stuck on the siding of homes in his Huntcliff neighborhood. Some bow hunters from Forsyth County hunting clubs have knocked on doors to ask permission to hunt on property, he said.
William Head, who also lives in Huntcliff, said the neighborhood has become a “hunting gallery” and hunters are using rifles in addition to bow and arrow to kill deer.
“We see carcasses,” he said. Left alone, deer wandering through the tree-filled community have become like pets. “The deer are so tame, they don’t even move when you go to your car.”
While the City Council discussion was solely for informational purposes, Councilman Andy Bauman said he would like officials to talk more about the problem next year.
“If more and more people come to you and say they are concerned about lethal weapons being used near their house, I don’t understand why you can’t be responsive,” longtime resident Patty Berkovitz said to the city officials.