JENNIFER FIERRO • STAFF WRITER
GRANITE SHOALS — A town hall meeting to address deer overpopulation in Granite Shoals is June 18.
On the agenda is the Granite Shoals Deer Management pilot program, which would allow bowhunters chosen by the city to hunt deer within the city limits.
The meeting is 9-11 a.m. at the fire station, 8410 RR 1431 West.
Granite Shoals city councilman Tom Holland and resident Jason Brady are the program co-chairs. They and Erin Wehland of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department along with Dale Schmidt, a TPWD biologist from Llano, will lead the meeting.
The city council began looking into a deer management program about two years ago to address overpopulation within the city. In December 2015, Brady presented the council with viable options on how to address the situation. Council members chose to create the pilot program.
The plan would allow bowhunters to hunt deer within the city limits in specified locations. The hunters must apply through the city and undergo training as well as complete a hunting proficiency exam — among other requirements — to be selected.
Deer overpopulation has led to the animals eating and damaging landscaping as well as creating a higher risk for deer-vehicle accidents. Overpopulation can also cause animal health to deteriorate.
“We’re very hopeful this is a way to address the deer overpopulation without spending money the city doesn’t have,” said Elaine Simpson, city secretary and wildlife committee representative. “Everybody is invited to come and participate (at the town hall meeting). We want people to show up and ask the questions they have and dispel some of the rumors.”
The town hall meeting will give people a chance to address their concerns in a forum, City Manager Ken Nickel said.
“This is to raise awareness and education and give our residents an opportunity to ask questions, give clarity and develop the program,” he said.
Holland and Brady will give a history of the program and how to apply.
Simpson said the program is greatly dependent on volunteer bowhunters, who will use their own equipment and purchase their own supplies.
“People are going to be appointed as harvesters, are going to go through qualifying testing,” she said. “It’ll be five months of volunteering your time and effort.”
Bowhunters will be given tests and have to complete internet courses and outdoor drill work.
Testing will include scenarios on when and if to take a shot in various situations, such as when a vehicle is approaching.
Nickel said arrows will be shot at a downward angle for safety precautions. Each arrow will have a tracer at the end to help the hunter retrieve it.
So what do the hunters get?
“They get the deer,” Simpson said.
If the bowhunters harvest more deer than they can consume, the city has established a partnership with area churches and Joseph’s Food Pantry, the local food bank, to accept and store the deer to be distributed to families in need, Simpson said.
“It’s illegal to waste any kind of edible meat,” she said.
Six locations have been secured for harvesting the deer, and the city is working on finding more.
“They’re secluded enough,” Simpson said about the locations. “We’re going to try to ease the concerns of some of the things (from residents) we’ve heard.”
In addition, the city is trying to create agreements with homeowners that would allow the bowhunters to retrieve deer from their properties.
The program will begin when the bowhunting season starts in October. Until then, it’s illegal to harvest the deer.
Simpson said some of the residents’ concerns regarding the harvesting program within the city limits were also shared by council members.
“Once they saw all the safety measures, they were all OK,” she said. “It’s very strictly regulated. It’s only in specified locations. It’s away from congested areas.”
The meeting will also cover a pamphlet called “Killing Deer With Kindness” created by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The four-page pamphlet outlines how deer corn doesn’t give the nutritional value to the animals and how feeding areas can be fertile breeding grounds for pathogens and parasites and can also attract pests such as raccoons, possums, skunks and rodents.
The pamphlet asks: “Could it be that feeding deer is even more cruel than not feeding them?”
The city council will examine an ordinance about feeding deer during its June 28 regular meeting. The council meets 6 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at city hall, 410 N. Phillips Ranch Road.