Willoughby Hills native travels from Colorado to childhood property to hunt deer

Feb. 13—When Willoughby Hills City Council adopted an ordinance that allows for white-tailed deer archery hunting Mitch Andrews decided to venture from his now home in Colorado to hunt on his childhood property within the city.

When the ordinance went into effect in October, the Willoughby South High School grad was the only out-of-state hunter who participated in the first year of permitted deer hunting.

Having spent 25 years in Ohio, Andrews got to witness many of the changes in the deer population over time, as well as seeing things ebb and flow with nature and the impact of overpopulation at times.

Being a hunter himself, when the city announced they were going to allow white-tailed deer hunting, Andrews said he was excited to get the opportunity to go back to his childhood home where he had spent many years watching the deer herd without being able to do anything about it.

"I combined the trip with the Christmas holiday season," he said. "My wife and I came back, and I was able to hunt the property I grew up on and successfully harvested a doe that we processed into meat to feed our family and our dog.

"We were able to take the opportunity to utilize the resource of the white-tailed deer that live in Willoughby Hills and make a positive out of it for us, and the population."

Andrews is thankful for the fact that the city went through with the ordinance and believes it came up with a good way to regulate it, especially in its first year.

"There's always some trepidation with citizens on both sides of hunting," Andrews said, making note of the way Willoughby Hills Police Officer Mike Walsh ran the program for the city and the way he was able to manage the issuing of the permits, as well as the testing of everyone for their proficiency.

"They did a good job of making sure the system was regulated and made sure there was enough property," he added.

Among the things that's unique about an urban deer hunt is the confined space and wanting to assure harvest of animals in that space, Andrews said.

"One of the important elements they implement is a hunter proficiency test for archery to assure your skill as an archer," he said. "Every hunter has a moral and ethical obligation to be a good marksman in order to be shooting at wildlife. The fact that the city makes sure to take that extra step and have the proficiency qualification included in the permitting process is one of the pieces that should really help put the public at ease."

Due to the requirements or to how difficult the proficiency test actually is, there shouldn't be any perception that hunters are out in the woods lobbing arrows at deer, Andrews said.

He noted that every hunter has an ethical obligation to be making clean, ethical harvests.

"I think you would find that this isn't necessarily anybody who's new to hunting," Andrews said. "It's just people who might have a new opportunity to hunt. That's one of the great things about this, especially from a wildlife management perspective.

"A lot of state agencies strive for hunter opportunity, so cities coming up with urban deer-hunting plans that create that opportunity, while managing public interaction, is a great thing to see."

Seeing what cities like Waite Hill and Willoughby Hills have done is a great example for cities that might have similar situations that are not necessarily uncommon throughout Ohio and the Midwest, Andrews said.

"I hope they do the same program again next year and I plan to travel back and hunt again and hopefully be successful again," he said.

Andrews has been an outdoorsman his entire life, he said, having been a Boy Scout and an Eagle Scout, as well as spending many of his young years fishing. Andrews took up hunting during his transition from high school into college.

"I pursued white tail in Ohio and elk in Colorado, and have always been interested in hunting in the outdoors," he said.

For anyone young or old interested in hunting and who may not have a clear resource, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources has the resources for hunter education, Andrews said.

"That's always a good place to start," he said. "You can take the class. ... By taking that class, you'd be introduced to the basics of it."

Finding mentors is another route interested hunters can take.

"The magic of social media these days can be used as a positive to reach out to various groups of hunters who have experience," Andrews said. "In general, the community of hunters is very open to knowledge and sharing, and the experience."

To access the deer permit packet for Willoughby Hills, visit willoughbyhills-oh.gov. Hard copies are available in the lobby of City Hall, 35405 Chardon Road. Permits cost $25.

Those with questions can email Walsh at deermgt@willoughbyhillspolice.org or call 216-780-7840.