03 Sep CincyParks Wildlife Management Controlled Bow Hunting
Autumn is one of many people’s favorite season. Cooler, drier weather, changing leaves and fewer insects make it a fantastic time to enjoy a nice hike on the trails. Autumn allows for other forms of outdoor recreation too, such as controlled bow hunting.
The Natural Resource Management Division of Cincinnati Parks is responsible for the conservation of park forests, trees and greenspaces. Their mission is to preserve and enhance our natural resources for future generations to enjoy.
One of the greatest challenges throughout our park system is the loss of young tree seedlings and spring wildflowers, due to the over population of white-tailed deer. This loss alters forest composition and the long-term regeneration of future forest. As a result of this changing ecosystem, all of the wildlife depending upon these resources are negatively impacted.
White-tailed deer are considered a keystone species, known for affecting other organisms in an ecosystem. They are browsers, meaning they eat all forms of plant material including seedlings, leaves, buds, flowers, fruit, bark, young trees and branches. Without the presence of keystone predators, like mountain lions, wolves, and black bears, the uncontrolled overpopulation of deer threatens the natural environment by reducing the diversity of plant life. When left unchecked the forest becomes over-browsed of favorite deer species, such as oak trees, changing the composition of the forest for park patrons to enjoy now and into the future.
Controlled Bow Hunting
To address the threat posed by uncontrolled deer population growth, Cincinnati Parks has actively managed the deer herd in select parks since 2007. Parks’ controlled bow hunting program has become very popular and well established with an exemplary safety record. Each season helps to improve upon the next. Parks Staff are confident in the current deer management program, which is based on 13 years of field research by Parks staff and outside experts. This research demonstrates our natural resources are degraded by deer overpopulation and by reducing this population biodiversity is returning to many of our parks. It is clear that without proactive measures to control these environments our forests would eventually lack large established trees that serve as a foundation for native plants and wildlife to flourish. This is why similar programs operate in park systems throughout the country including US National Parks, Ohio State Parks and Great Parks of Hamilton County.
Outreach & Park Access
The program garners significant interest from park users. Over the years, staff have continuously addressed safety, humaneness and effectiveness. One of the most common complaints has been about reduced access due to park and trail closures.
As is done each year, prior to the start of hunting season Cincinnati Parks is providing outreach to community members who use parks to seek feedback and provide a list of parks and maps of controlled bow hunting zones. In addition, all controlled bow hunting zones are marked with signage.
Public comments and concerns are always appreciated, considered, and utilized to implement new strategies to improve park user experience. This year, further changes will be made to minimize trail closure by adding a 30 foot controlled bow hunting buffer zone and changing the trail closure policy opening the majority of the trails within the hunting zones allowing hikers to choose to pass through designated hunting zones.
Staff have compiled a detailed review of the trail system, identifying the parks and specific hunting zones most conducive to this programmatic/policy change. This change will reduce trail closures from 50% to 10%.
The program has been well-established for 12 years with an outstanding safety record thanks to an annual mandatory skills test each hunter must pass in order to qualify for the program. Beyond this, all qualified hunters receive educational training delivered by Parks Natural Resource Management staff on the Park Board’s hunting regulations and safety requirements. In discussion with hunters in our parks, park users are regularly found hiking within the designated zones. Therefore, hunters have grown accustomed to creating buffer zones by setting up further from populated areas and popular trails.
Hunting season starts September 26, 2020 and ends March 1, 2021. Cincinnati Parks is proud of the success achieved in improving our forests, is grateful for the deer management volunteers and looks forward to another successful season.
There are a few simple steps you can take to make sure you stay safe while hiking:
Be Aware. Whenever enjoying our parks be mindful of your surrounding including the other recreational activities taking place in the forest. If you do not feel comfortable hiking in a hunting zone, click here for a list of parks with trails that are outside of these zones.
Be Seen. Bright colors are encouraged all year round to improve visibility and make it easier for rescue personnel if visitors become lost, sick, or injured while on trails. When entering a controlled bow hunting zone, it is important to wear bright colors, especially true during sunrise and sunset, since you’ll be less visible and have less visibility in the dim light.
Be Smart. Stay on marked trails. All hunting zones have been set at least 30 feet (the distance a bow can travel) away from marked trails.
Dogs on leash. Dogs are permitted on most trails on 6 ft leashes. Keep your dog on leash when hiking the trails.