Most people scoff or laugh a little when I tell them that I hunt in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
They think it’s almost a joke that someone would want to hunt in another person’s backyard, surrounded by other houses and neighbors, on properties as small as one quarter acre. What they don’t know, and what I do, is that I wouldn’t trade the world for it. And it may just be the best kept secret around.
To start, the deer population in the suburbs of D.C. is so high the DNR can’t get an accurate count of exactly HOW overpopulated the deer are. We know the average carrying capacity should be in the 12-14 deer per square mile range, but the DNR currently estimates that there are pockets of Northern Virginia currently in the 400 – 450 deer per square mile range.
As you can imagine, a population of deer that high in an urban environment comes with its fair share of problems. The deer have absolutely decimated any bit of remaining low-lying browse left over from years of urban sprawl, and with that brought along Lyme disease and some of the highest car/deer collision rates in the country.
I could go on for days about the positive effects that hunting has on a suburban deer population.
Aside from the ecological and philanthropic benefits of hunting in the suburbs, the main reasons is because that’s where I live. Not only is it easy to drive the 5 minutes from my house to hundreds of trees ready to hunt — and a very target rich environment below my perch once in those trees — but the suburbs of a large city aren’t some run-of-the-mill monoculture. They’re a melting pot of different cultures all coming together to be one. Frankly, even though my hunting lifestyle is often outspoken and outside the “norm,” it fits in here as much as any other person’s lifestyle and choices.
Hunting the ‘burbs’ is something that’s totally different than what most people who have grown up deep-woods hunting are used to. The things that you get to see and experience in a tree so close to so many other people are truly amazing. The sights and sounds of people surrounding you: people walking dogs, kids screaming on playgrounds, the guy blasting Journey while washing his Firebird. People just living their everyday lives with deer so close by and rarely spooked at all, as long as people stay within their “normal” routines. It will truly give you a new appreciation for what a deer will tolerate in its daily life. And how quickly when one small thing steps out of that “normal” routine, a deer will take notice and alter its behavior in order to figure out what’s going on.
Sometimes the walks from the truck can be so short you’ll want to face your stand away from where you parked to try and forget the 40-yard hike you had in. You’ll also start to realize that when you hear a dog barking, you get excited because you know that means deer are coming. A target-rich environment is certainly a big plus to hunting in the suburbs, but it also helps that you get to hunt close to home. This allows for more time in the tree and much more time at full draw with an animal in your sights.
Overall, I can’t imagine hunting anywhere else.
When I do get a chance to get away from the ‘burbs’ and hunt a large, rural location, I find myself missing the sights and sounds of suburbia. Being able to help reduce an incredibly overpopulated resource and not only provide clean protein for my family but also for other families in need is just an added bonus.
Being able to sit in a tree year-round and watch how a whitetail interacts with the world around it — sometimes just yards away from people in their normal routine — is what makes urban hunting such a rewarding endeavor.
Taylor Chamberlin is Virginia native with a burning desire to be in the woods. Ending up in the suburbs of Washington DC, Taylor refused to let the sprawling urban concrete jungle deter him from hunting. Taylor hunts 150-200+ days a year doing his part to reduce the incredibly overabundant whitetail heard in the suburbs of Northern Virginia while providing his family with clean locally sourced meat. Combining that much time in a tree and his never ending drive to learn the in's and out's of all things whitetail, Taylor is one of the foremost experts on urban deer and urban deer hunting.