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Urban Archery Hunt keeps deer populations down and locals fed

MORGANTOWN — For Rick Bebout, there is nothing better than filling Trinity Episcopal Church’s community kitchen freezers to the brim with venison meat.

That’s because each pound of ground venison will be used to feed hundreds of people in need every week.

“There’s not a better sight than filling that whole thing up to where you close the lid and you just barely can close it,” said Bebout, the original volunteer coordinator for Morgantown’s Urban Archery Hunt.

The venison packed into each freezer is sourced through Morgantown’s Urban Archery Hunt, a group of about 60 volunteers which began in Morgantown a decade ago. Although feeding those in need has become an important part of the hunt, it isn’t the reason it was initially created.

Prior to the urban hunt beginning, car collisions with deer were commonplace and finding them snacking on residents’ gardens and shrubs was a regular occurrence. Needing a solution to these problems, Morgantown City Council decided to allow local bowhunters to bring urban hunting into the area.

Before volunteering for the Morgantown Urban Archery Hunt, participants must attend training classes.

The organization still works to control these populations, but as a way to prevent the meat from going to waste, the organization decided to feed the area’s vulnerable populations.

Over the course of several seasons, the group has hunted more than 950 deer and harvested about 9,500 pounds of ground venison. The meat is then used by the bowhunters or donated to organizations such as the Trinity Episcopal Church, Pantry Plus More, the Caritas House, and Ronald McDonald House.

The Trinity Episcopal Church serves free lunches Monday through Friday. About twice a week, those meals are made possible by the meat donated by the urban hunting volunteers. 

“I just can’t state enough that we rely on that first hunt that provides us with so much venison,” said Jim Chapman, kitchen manager at Trinity Episcopal Church. “It’s a truly wonderful thing that they provide for us.”

Some days, Chapman said the meat could be used to make meatballs. Other days, it could be used to make spaghetti sauce. Chapman said the versatile meat has been an important way for the kitchen to offer a high-protein option and serves as an alternative to otherwise expensive meat products. 

The urban hunt runs from the first Saturday in September through Dec. 31, as well as the last two weeks of January. The amount of meat donated to the church is enough to last the entire year.

Although the hunt has become integrated into the community, many residents were a bit apprehensive of allowing urban hunting in the area when it first began. Paul Crumrine, the urban hunt’s current volunteer coordinator, said there were concerns over the safety of the practice.

However, the organization believes its track record is a testimony to the emphasis placed on safety, as the organization has not had any hunting-related accidents.

“We place so much emphasis on safety [and] we place so much emphasis on doing things the right way,” Bebout said. “And our results speak for themselves.”

To ensure the safety of hunters and residents, all volunteers must be experienced bowhunters and complete the National Bowhunter Education Foundation course, as well as an archery proficiency test. 

Looking ahead, Crumrine said the program hopes to grow and bring the same positive impacts to surrounding communities.

“We’re looking at Westover, and Granville would be nice,” Crumrine said. “We just see a lot of deer in those areas where they’re not being hunted.”

More information about the hunt can be found by visiting

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