It soon will be deer season again in Sunfish Lake.
The City Council approved an ordinance amendment allowing deer hunting on public and private property, a decision that Sunfish Lake officials hope will curtail the population of more than 50 deer that are said to be roaming around the 1.7-square-mile community.
Deer season for archers begins Saturday and lasts until the end of December.
It has been about seven years since the small residential community has participated in a hunt during the regular deer season.
The city participated in a deer-culling program last year outside of the hunting season. Then, shooters baited deer, but the process produced no more than 10 deer kills, said officer Matt Muellner of the West St. Paul police.
Now, deer hunting in Sunfish Lake will be opened to include not just city-owned Musser Park but also private property volunteered by residents.
The city will be working with the Metro Bowhunters Resource Base, a hunting organization that helps Minnesota communities reduce their deer populations.
"It's really a good chance for the city to use experienced bowhunters to control the deer population," Muellner said. "And to be honest, it gives a skilled bowhunter a hunting opportunity in an urban environment."
Muellner, who is a member of the bowhunters group, will be helping to coordinate the hunt.
Besides being traffic hazards, deer can become pests by consuming plants on properties.
"We definitely have a deer problem here," Council Member Richard Williams said. "One of my neighbors ended up losing some yews that were like 40 years old. The deer literally pulled the bark, pulled the chicken wire off the yews before they ate them."
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says white-tailed deer that are common in suburban and rural areas eat a variety of foods such as acorns, grasses and assorted shrubs. After fawns are born in the spring, there could be up to a million deer in Minnesota.
"They present a lot of challenges because they are very adaptable," said Lou Cornicelli, big game program coordinator for the DNR.
Each year, hunters harvest around 200,000 deer in the state, Cornicelli said. Urban deer management has been taking place in Minnesota since the 1980s, he said.
Sunfish Lake established a maximum of 25 deer that can be taken during the hunt.
Still, some council members are worried about citizens hunting on private property.
"I'm really not comfortable with having our citizens hunt, because so you got three or four people who [you said] can hunt on your property, so what if they aim an arrow over here that's off the property?" Council Member Judy MacManus asked.
But Muellner said allowing hunting on private property would make the hunt more successful.
"Expanding it citywide is only going to do one thing," he said. "It's going to increase the chances of removing more deer."
Muellner said a number of residents already have said they were willing to allow deer hunting on their land.
The city will allow Metro Bowhunters Resource Base members to hunt.
At the council meeting, it was decided that citizens who want to participate in the hunt will need to join the group and go through its vetting process.
However, according to the group's website, the deadline for applying for membership for this year already has passed.
Mayor Molly Park said that she was unsure how the city would address that, but that she thought an arrangement could possibly be made.
A Metro Bowhunters Resource Base representative wasn't immediately available for comment.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495