MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Archery hunting season for deer is right around the corner and the Camp Lejeune Environmental Conservation Branch continues to maintain thousands of acres to suffice hunters' annual recreation of choice.
North Carolina’s archery season begins Sept. 10 and ends Oct. 7, but Camp Lejeune allows active service members, dependents, retired Marines and civilian base workers to hunt until Jan. 1.
The Environmental Conservation Branch has made available 14,000 acres to hunt on during the open months. Twelve hundred of those acres are specially sanctioned for accurate hunters who have passed an accuracy test, due to the proximity to surrounding housing units and residential areas.
"The twelve hundred acres for advanced bow hunters were un-hunted prior to 1999," said Carmen Lombardo, a wildlife biologist with the Environmental Conservation Branch. "We opened those acres up for hunters who have completed the Archery Skills Test on their first attempt."
The Archery Skills Test, beginning Aug. 1 and running through Dec. 12, consists of shooting a deer-shaped target at an unknown distance with their first drawn arrow. If they fail to hit it with their first attempt, another test must be conducted on a different date, according to Lombardo.
“Good shot placement is the first line of defense against hunting accidents or run away targets,” said Lombardo.
A run away deer could cause danger to nearby people and property.
Months prior to taking the test, however, hunters should have been practicing to ensure their muscles are up to par from last year and to get themselves reacquainted with their equipment, according to Lombardo.
“A good hunter would scout an area at the end of deer season when the leaves are off the trees,” said Lombardo. “Maximum visibility allows the hunter to get a good view of the animals’ living quarters, the herding trails and eating habits.”
Although bow hunting is an excellent recreational sport, it also helps maintain the wildlife population on the base, according to Lombardo.
Each year, hunters on Camp Lejeune will harvest approximately 72 deer in the 14,000 acres, according to Lombardo, and they like to see a 50/50 sex ratio – meaning if we harvest more males than females it messes up the herds for the following seasons.
The bow hunting opportunities on Camp Lejeune have sparked intrigue in many well-experienced hunters.
“I have hunted for twenty-three years, in nine states and on both coasts, and the hunting on Camp Lejeune, particularly with a bow, ranks number two in my book,” said Col. James N. Flowers, commanding officer, Marine Corps Engineer School, Courthouse Bay. “This is based on travel to and from hunting areas, and the quantity and quality of deer I have, or should have, harvested. I believe, unless you have a pretty secure lease on a private agricultural property, that the deer hunting, primarily bow hunting, at Camp Lejeune is better than off-base hunting.”
Unfortunately, hunters are deteriorating in numbers, according to Lombardo. This issue leads to an overpopulation of deer.
“As the population increases, the population of people who hunt is decreasing for some reason,” he continued.
On the other hand, as cities expand in previously forested areas, the deer population gathers in one place creating an unbalanced wildlife environment, according to Lombardo.
“People need to encourage others to hunt and help regulate the deer population,” Lombardo said. “We like to ensure a good balance of opportunity for hunters on the base.”
For someone who is undecided about bow hunting, or just wants to start from the beginning, Camp Lejeune offers a three-dimensional range, with 20 life-size targets disbursed throughout a forested trail.
Currently, the 3-D range is recognized nationally for its training abilities and effectiveness to efficiently train bow hunters in all aspects of the sport, according to Lombardo.
Also, hunters will need to obtain a North Carolina Hunting License, complete the Camp Lejeune Hunter’s Safety Course and pay a fee of $15 to hunt aboard the base.
Overall, hunting deer with the primitive stick and string proves promising as an exciting, recreational sport to look forward to all year, and a way to help regulate the environment to maintain the future of the base’s wildlife.
“I continued bow hunting year-after-year because of the challenges, the friendships and the steaks and burgers of success,” said Flowers. “Last year I killed my fifty-sixth deer with a bow … that's a lot of good [food].”
For more information on the Archery Skills Testing or bow hunting regulations aboard the base, contact the Environmental Conservation Branch at 451-7226.