If you want to see deer afoot, just drive around in the evening in suburban parts of Roanoke County or the woodier sections of Roanoke (or, really, anywhere where there are open fields). The whitetails will be visible, possibly even more visible than during the late summer when they flood fields.
So, on to suburban deer hunting, the idea of which has piqued the interest of Stu, as he mentioned in a previous comment.
Stu had some questions about urban hunting.
I’ll start by saying that the regulations vary by county and locality. You can find everything you need in the DGIF hunting regulations digest, which is also online.
More than 30 localities offer special urban archery seasons. Those are antlerless only seasons before the regular archery seasons open, and after other deer seasons close in January.
In some cases, archery tackle is the only hunting gear that can be used at any time due to firearms discharge restrictions. But if the localities have urban archery seasons, they also allow hunting (with bows or sometimes guns) during the regular deer seasons. I’m not going to get into specific regulations for the counties and localities, which you can find online. But I’ll refer to a couple of examples.
Take Roanoke County. It has urban archery seasons because it meets population density requirements that make it “urban.” (These seasons really are more like “suburban” archery seasons because it’s not like these hunts are taking place in population-dense areas. The best hunting (and, sometimes only legal, due to property size restrictions) is in areas where there is a mix of woods and open areas. Anyway, when regular seasons open, hunters can opt to use muzzleloaders, rifles, etc., in Roanoke County.
An “urban” hunting area such as Blacksburg is archery tackle-only during all seasons. (Hunting is allowed only on certain properties. Again, I’ll leave it up to you all to research specific regs for your potential hunting grounds.)
The difference is that bucks are fair game (based on tagging requirements) during the regular deer seasons.
My experience with urban/suburban hunting is that it can be a lot of fun and can produce some deer. But it’s not a slam dunk.
First of all, if it’s a true urban/suburban setting there’s a good chance you’ll be using a bow or a crossbow, either because it’s legally required or because the property is just too small for legal (or practical) muzzleloader or firearms shooting. For example, I have a 5-acre spot in Roanoke County that has only a tiny corner of the property far enough away from a county road for legal shooting. So it’s a bowhunting spot.
Also importantly, while urban/suburban landowners may be glad to have you trying to help with deer problems, they probably don’t want to hear gunshots. Nor do their neighbors. Archery tackle allows for a stealthy approach. You also don’t want your deer running off and dying in little Johnny’s sand box, which is why you must take only perfect shot opportunities that will ensure (or increase the chances of) a super quick recovery. That’s why I usually hunt with a crossbow. I’d rather hunt with my recurve and I’m pretty good with it. But, I’m better with the crossbow. Knock on wood I’ve never had to go off a suburban property to recover a deer.
Small areas also can be surprisingly hard to hunt. It’s not like the deer are sticking to the 4 acres of woods behind one house. They can be all over the place. I’ve had lots of no deer sits at suburban hunting spots.
Stu mentioned in his comment a secret urban archery society. I’m guessing he’s remembering a column I wrote a couple years ago about a small group of us who call ourselves SWAT (Suburban Whitetail Assault Team). The fact that I wrote about SWAT makes in not secret, right? Haha! We’re not even a club. We’re just a few of us who hunt suburban spots during the fall, the try to find good suburban spots the rest of the year!
How do we find those spots? The same way you find any hunting spot. The best way is through friends. I hear someone complaining about deer, I ask if they’d consider letting me try to help. I’ll also knock on doors and write letters. It works more often than you might expect.
Of course, if and when you get permission, you owe it to the landowners to follow through and actually hunt. And don’t just sit there waiting for a trophy buck. Kill every doe you can. And if you get something, hook up the landowner with a backstrap or two.
If I’ve got all day to hunt, I’m headed out of suburbia. But if I have just a little window before or after work, I’d rather be sitting in a stand somewhere, even if I have to listen to traffic or dogs barking, rather than not hunting.