Deer hunters, protectors square off over hunts at Enterprise South Nature Park

photo A fawn and doe wander along the southern boundary of Enterprise South Nature Park. Officials are planning to allow a regulated number of hunters access to the park during two weekends in October to hunt deer and turkey to comply with a contract the park signed with TWRA.

Prepared for confrontation, the sides split.

To the left, the hunters. Men who shared a common passion.

To the right, the protectors. Women who wanted to protect wildlife.

The sides gathered Wednesday at the Hamilton County Commission conference room after local lawyer Diane Dixon asked the Building and Economic Development Committee to listen to both sides of the argument about the deer hunts at Enterprise South Nature Park.

On Monday and Tuesday, and again Oct. 24-25, 80 hunters are allowed to hunt deer with bows and arrows. They can bag up to two deer, as long as the first deer is a doe. Hunters also may kill one turkey.

Dixon, who opposes the hunts and said there are more humane ways to control deer populations, said one option is bringing in sharpshooters from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency to cull the deer.

"We perceive that as more humane than these archery hunts," she said.

After her, Committee Chairman Greg Beck asked for one of the men on the left to give his side.

Gerald Peterson, who moved to the Chattanooga area from Wisconsin in 2003, said sharpshooters would cost money.

"Whereas," he said, "if you let hunters take care of it, they pay you."

For 45 minutes, a hunter would speak, then a protector.

Joan Farrell, pounding her hand on the lectern, said the commission should divorce itself from TWRA, which, she later said, is in bed with the hunters. She said she wanted exact numbers of how many deer are in the park and doesn't believe there is an overpopulation problem.

Bill Swan, president of the Chattanooga chapter of Safari Club International, said he's been a TWRA sharpshooter and that sharpshooters just go in and do a lot of killing.

"I'm not a killer," he said. "I am a hunter. I take the [meat], and I utilize it."

Connie Smith wanted to find a way to move the deer somewhere else instead of killing them.

"We just enjoy the park," she said, "and we enjoy the deer. We hate to see the deer killed."

In the end, committee members Jim Fields and Beck said they think TWRA has done a fine job but, Beck said, the issue needs monitoring. He proposed that the commission revisit the issue each year.

"I looked at the TWRA website and there are so many places to hunt," Dixon said after the meeting. "All we're saying is, why here?"

Connect with the Times Free Press on Facebook