Bow hunting? Not in my backyard, Roswell residents say

Roswell residents have raised objections over a man bow hunting for deer near their homes, but their complaints won't get everyone up in arms -- the hunter and Mayor Jere Wood have shared in this pasttime.

Martins Landing subdivision resident Shannon Shipley, while acknowledging that bow hunting happens a lot in Roswell, has voiced safety concerns because she believes the hunter has  come close to houses and backyards that have children at play. About 30 homes in three subdivisions border the 20-acre patch of woods where the hunting occurs.

“I’m not against hunting or hunters’ rights, but hunting in a suburban neighborhood is an accident waiting to happen,” Shipley said.

However, Bob Coombs -- the bow hunter in question -- said Shipley's fears are unfounded.

Bow hunting has a high safety record with no recorded incidents of non-hunters being shot in Georgia, and arrows are shot at close range and at a downward angle from a tree stand, Coombs said.

Without bow hunters, the deer population will get out of control and cause deer-related auto accidents, Coombs said. Also, he hasn't shot any deer yet behind Martins Landing, which is one of several of his North Fulton hunting locations.

And Coombs has the mayor's support.

Roswell can't regulate hunting -- that's the state's domain -- but the city has an ordinance that requires bow hunters to obtain written permission from a property owner to use his land. Through Wood, Coombs received consent from landowner Jack Spielberg.

Last May, Wood sent a letter asking if Wood and Coombs could bow hunt on the Spielberg's land. Coombs had offered to teach him to bow hunt, the mayor said.

On Monday, Spielberg said he approved the request because “it always pays to be on the good side of the mayor.”

Wood’s letter also relieved Spielberg of any liability claims that might occur on his property from the actions of the bow hunters.

Yet Wood admitted he hasn’t hunted on the property this year because he hasn't become proficient with a bow.

“I have not gotten to the point that I feel competent to release an arrow,” the mayor said. “And at the request of the neighborhood, I have told them I won’t hunt on that property.”

Spielberg, who has  received letters from upset homeowners, might rescind his approval after learning that Wood wasn’t hunting on his land, but wanted to talk to his lawyer first.

Bow hunting for deer has become commonplace in suburban and inner perimeter metro Atlanta, where gun hunting is illegal. In fact, it's been encouraged.

“It’s the only way we have to control the  burgeoning deer population in metro Atlanta,” said Dan McGowan, Georgia Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist. “It goes on more than people realize.”

In his mind, Coombs is performing a public service, thinning out the deer population and reducing the likelihood of auto-deer accidents. Statewide, there were 32,000 vehicle-deer collisions reported from 2007 to 2009, state Department of Transportation records showed. Sixteen people died. Roswell has had 31 deer-auto collisions this year, and 40 in 2009 and 36 in 2008, according to police department records.

“Do we care about our kids enough to protect them from deer going through windshields?” Coombs asked.

Subdivision residents have told Coombs that his bow hunting makes them nervous, and would like him to respect their position.

“For all these years we’ve felt very comfortable,” said Paula Winski, a former Roswell City Council member. “He knows we don’t want him there.”

Coombs countered that residents have allowed their kids to hunt on the land, and other people have stolen his equipment.

"This is not their woods," Coombs said.

Wood said there are many residents who favor deer hunting and he doesn't feel responsible for the flap.

"There are people in Roswell who don’t support hunting and they're upset," Wood said.

Meantime, the state has extended the bow-hunting season in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett and Rockdale counties to Jan. 31 in its continued effort to decrease the deer population.

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