80 more archers apparently will get their chance to take two deer and a wild turkey in a controlled hunt at the Enterprise South Nature Park later this month.
The Hamilton County Commission's Buildings and Grounds Committee has turned back a request to block the second phase of that hunt, after a hearing that chairman Greg Beck described as 'full of passion and prejudice.'
"This committee is looking for facts," Beck says. "But the issue bears watching."
"If we don't have these hunts, I guarantee they'll be deer everywhere," says Hamilton County resident Pete Walker. "They'll be into roads and yards."
"There are thousands of acres in every county available for hunting," opponent Joan Farrell counters. "Why is there a tempest in a teapot over this one?"
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) has had a formal agreement with Hamilton County and the City of Chattanooga, to allow hunting at Enterprise South since 2005.
Hunters have taken game on the property, formerly the home of the Volunteer Army Ammunition Plant (VAAP), since the plant shut down in the mid 1970's.
Last year, Hamilton County dedicated 2800 acres of the reservation for use as a Nature Park.
"It's more than a hunting ground now," says Diane Dixon, an attorney for those opposed to the hunts. "It's home to hikers, bikers and animal lovers."
Dixon maintains that the agreement with TWRA allows Hamilton County to stop the hunts whenever officials deem it advisable and necessary.
"Nothing limits the county's authority to exercise its dominion and control,"Dixon says.
"We agree that the deer population needs to be kept under control. Where we part, is in the methodology for dealing with it."
TWRA officials admit they haven't counted the deer within Enterprise South. "We're considering a number of factors," biologist Ben Layton told Eyewitness News Monday. "How much do the deer weigh? How much of the habitat are they eating?"
Monday and Tuesday, the first 80 hunters, drawn by lottery, took 27 deer and no turkeys.
"The rules call for the first kill to be a doe, to control the population," Layton says. "We'd hoped they would take 80-100 deer. We were expecting 40 or 50, so we're a little disappointed."
Dixon argues that other methods of population control are more effective.
"If it comes to it, we would prefer especially-trained sharpshooters take out a specified number of deer," she says. "It's more humane."
Hunt supporters suggest such tactics defy good sportsmanship.
"An arrow shot, the deer likely never knows what hits it," says Bill Swan, a member of the Chattanooga chapter of Safari Club International.
"Sharpshooters take whatever walks in their path," he says. "That's killing. Hunters are not killers."
Both sides agree that the TWRA is well-equipped to determine when culling and thinning are necessary.
"I haven't heard anything that wouldn't suggest they've not handled things well for a number of years," County Commissioner Jim Fields says.
Fields and Beck will recommend Hamilton County allow the hunt to proceed October 24 and 25.
Dixon says her group doesn't see the decision as a complete defeat.
"The land use has changed," she says. "The stakeholders have changed. The rules have to change.
Next year, we hope we'll see that change."