by Sarah Squires
The City Council voted down a measure Monday night that would have allowed bow and arrow deer hunting within conservancy districts in the city, leaving the deer control issue with the Department of Natural Resources.
A handful of council members said that they'd changed their minds since the last time the issue was discussed after hearing from the public. They said that they'd heard people were concerned with safety issues and didn't feel that the deer posed that big a problem.
Council member "Doc" James Kahl, a retired Winona veterinarian, led the dissenting votes. He said his first issue with the new bow hunting proposal had to do with his personal experiences, and that he'd spent most of his life trying to save animals. But he added that he felt the deer problem had been exaggerated, that there were merely a handful of complaints about deer eating shrubs in yards and few deer-vehicle accidents.
"In most cases I think you'd find the deer were there first," said Kahl, adding that the proposed measure could lead to inexperienced hunters and a waste of city staff time. The DNR, he said, should keep control of the deer population issue.
Council member George Borzyskowski agreed, citing concerns with child safety in such a hunting season. "I've heard from hunters that it's not needed," he said.
Borzyskowski continued. "Either build inside of the city or don't build at all. [Deer] have a right there just like everybody else."
Council member Deb Salyards added, "We're building in areas, we're taking away their habitat."
Council member Tim Breza, who'd requested the issue of wildlife management, said that if you look back to the 1920s and 1930s, there were very few deer in this area. He said that deer were adaptable and that their habitat had changed to include Winona's backyards. "It's not that they're in the woods," he said. "They're in the yards. They're destroying property."
Breza added that without a deer management plan, the city would eventually face problems with herd starvation, vehicle accidents and ecological impacts.
Council member Debbie White said that she wasn't totally convinced that there was a need for such a bow season, adding that she felt allowing hunting in conservancy districts within city limits would bring hunters too close to residential areas.
Salyards added that she was unsure how hunters would identify public from private land, and that even if signs were erected, she questioned whether they would respect those boundaries. "That's a major issue," she said.
She added that she'd even gotten a call recently reporting an injured deer running around with an arrow embedded in its leg.
Answering a question posed by Borzyskowski, city attorney Rich Blahnik said that if someone were injured in such a bow hunt, that bow hunter would likely be the most liable in court. But he added that the property owner and city could also be involved in a suit, although he felt it unlikely that the city would end up being liable in the end, even if involved in a suit.
The measure was defeated with a vote of 5-2, with council member Al Thurley and Breza for the motion and Salyards, Borzyskowski, White, Miller and Kahl against.