Hunting For The Hungry

Each year, Wheeling’s urban deer hunt allows the Miller brothers – Rod, Scott and Lance – to give away hundreds of pounds of venison to people who often can’t afford to buy meat.

The brothers, who own and operate Neely’s Grocery in East Wheeling, have taken part in the urban bowhunt since its inception in the mid 1990s. This year’s season began Sept. 7 in Wheeling and continues through Dec. 31. Bethlehem and Weirton also hold urban deer hunts each year.

“My first deer, I gave away already,” Scott Miller said.

The Miller brothers said they give away about 75 percent of their harvest, which easily translates to a few hundred pounds of venison each year. Providing for the hungry is a major motivator, to be sure, but they also believe firmly in the purpose of urban deer hunting: reducing the amount of deer causing accidents and damaging flower beds and gardens in the city.

“We’ve got an abundance of deer in the city,” Scott Miller said. “We’re conservationists, first and foremost. That’s why we hunt.”

About 50 people sign up for Wheeling’s urban hunt each year in addition to those with lifetime hunting permits. But according to the Millers, more people need to participate for the event to have its intended effect of thinning the city’s deer population.

“Every one you kill, it seems like three come back. … We are outnumbered,” Scott Miller said.

Although the brothers admit to engaging in some friendly competition, Lance Miller said he simply enjoys the sport and seldom gets disappointed even when he returns empty-handed.

“There’s a lot of solace in the woods,” he said.

Even though this year’s urban deer season is almost three weeks old, permits may be obtained any time through Dec. 31 by visiting the city manager’s office at the City-County Building. Hunting is forbidden within 300 feet of any dwelling, including the hunter’s own, and participants may harvest up to seven deer – only two of them antlered – within city limits that do not count toward their regular deer season bag limit.

Hunters must present a valid hunting license and proof that they’ve successfully completed an International Bowhunter Education Program-certified course.

Instructor Lloyd Klages will offer a course from 6-9 p.m. Oct. 15 at Cabela’s at The Highlands. Pre-registration is required by calling 304-218-0759.

Those hunting on property other than their own, including city-owned property, must have written permission from the landowner in their possession while hunting.

Weirton’s season begins Monday and runs through Dec. 21. Hunters there are required to attend a pre-hunt meeting, however, the last of which was held Sept. 18.

Like Wheeling’s, Bethlehem’s season ends Dec. 31. Permits are available at the village office, located at 1 Community St.