Hunting -> Hunt Roles

Hunt Roles: Archer and Landowner

How archers hunt is mysterious to many suburban residents.  

The popular imagination conjures up an unflattering stereotype based on incidents reported in the press of firearms hunters shooting livestock or each other.  Indeed, there are hunters who dodge as many challenges to bagging game as possible.  

In contrast, suburban archers usually are skilled and respectful hunters who acknowledge and accommodate the extra challenges imposed by the limited effective range of their weapons and the intense human use of suburban landscapes.  

Landowners often do not understand that they have roles in harvesting deer, even when they grant access to someone else to actually shoot deer.  Landowners, if nothing else, select the archers who may hunt on their property.  Green Fire provides support to landowners in archer qualification and selection by establishing standards for archers and overseeing archer organization enforcement of these standards.  See Individual Archer Standards.

Following are descriptions of the steps involved in harvesting deer on a property.  Archers’ roles are described on the left, landowners’ on the right:

Archers Landowners


Agreement with property owner(s)

The archer or representative of an archer organization can assist the landowner in completing their agreement by explaining Virginia laws, describing how hunting would actually be conducted on the specific property, and explaining the basis for conditions specified in the agreement.  

Before any hunting activity starts, the landowner must grant access to the archer or archer organization.  This can be as simple as signing an affidavit obtained from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.  Download access affidavit.

Green Fire recommends a more thorough agreement that:

  • grants exclusive access to hunt to the archer organization so that there is clear accountability in the event that difficulties arise
  • grants permission to hunt year round in cases where constant pressure on the deer herd is needed to control deer damages
  • States whether the landowner allows Sunday hunting
  • holds the landowner harmless from liabilities for hunting activities
  • specifies whether vegetation may be trimmed to create shooting lanes (may improve shot accuracy)
  • specifies whether tree stands may be left in place between hunts
  • addresses how venison will be shared by the landowner, archer, and charities
  • defines suitable vehicle parking locations
  • requires or waives advance notice that the archer will be on the property at a specific time (can be done informally by phone from just before entering the property up to 24 hours in advance, as agreed).


Initially archers will need to scout a property accompanied by the property owner.  The more the archer understands about each property, the more effective he/she will be.  Scat, signs of browsing, beds, and trails used by deer will inform selection of potential stand locations.  

During the many hours spent on their stand, an archer will develop increasingly detailed understandings of the property and the deer that use it. With additional information from trail cameras, hunting other properties in the vicinity, and sharing observation with other archers, they will improve their strategies for harvesting deer over time.  

Landowners should walk their property with the archer.  Landowners can point out property corners and boundaries, describe deer activity they have witnessed, discuss what they know about neighbors’ attitudes toward hunting, and describe typical activities and schedules of people and pets in the vicinity.

Landowners can help their archers make best use of their hunting opportunities by taking notes when they see deer and by maintaining a trail camera to monitor deer activity and sharing this information with the archer.


Selecting stand locations and determining shot ranges

 With rare exceptions that should be agreed to by the archer, archer organization and landowner, archers will hunt suburban properties from tree stands.  The seats will be between 10 and 20 feet above ground, ensuring that arrows will strike the ground close by and giving the archer an advantage over wary deer who normally are not looking in the trees for danger.

Fairfax County sets no limitation on stand locations except to prohibit arrows from landing on adjacent properties where access to hunt has not been granted.  Therefore, the archer and the landowner will rely on their common sense about where to locate stands and in which directions arrows may be shot.  See Reasons for Granting Access – Access to Hunt for discussion of stand locations and ranges.

Landowners may require that they approve stand locations especially if there is any doubt about whether a stand would be on an adjacent property or arrows shot from a stand may land on an adjacent property.  Landowners may require that trimming of vegetation to open up fire lanes be done only after they approve it. 


Parking and entering property

By law, archers cannot take a shot until a half hour before sunrise and must not shoot after a half hour after sunset.  That means they park their vehicles or drive away in the dark and walk either to or from their stands in the dark.  

Archers will drag harvested deer to their vehicles to load them.  This process should be as discrete as possible to avoid disturbing individuals who may be sensitive.  Parking on public roads and parking lots should be avoided if possible 

Archers practice stealth approaching stands in the morning since they could spook deer in the vicinity.  This is not as important for evening hunts since deer will be accustomed to the normal afternoon commotion in suburban settings when the hunt begins. 

Landowners may want to avoid additional vehicles blocking access to their driveways.  They may also ask that deer not be loaded close to their house especially if impressionable children may be present.  

Landowners should discuss options for vehicle parking with the archer so that everyone’s interests are satisfied.  

Archers and landowners should also discuss hazards the archer may encounter while walking to or from their stand and hauling harvested deer to their vehicle, especially in twilight or dark.  Landowners should take common sense measures to remove hazards where archers may not be able to avoid them.  


Erecting tree stands

Ladder stands may be put in place and left in place between hunts.  Once anchord to a tree with ropes, ladder stands are safer for the archer. And they are easier to climb. 

Climbing stands typically are raised for each hunt and taken away after each hunt.  They are easier to move around to new locations if one stand location is not productive.

Archers should discuss with landowners whether stands may be left in place between hunts.  If children in the neighborhood have access, stands can become an attractive nuisance.  

Landowners may also want to specify whether climbing stands may be used since they can damage thin-barked trees such as beech.  Landowners may also prohibit screw-in steps that can damage trees and become attractive nuisances if children are around.  



With all the preparation before and follow-up after, actually releasing an arrow seems like a minor element of the hunt in terms of time and effort.  However, it is at that point that the archer’s skill and experience is most critical.  Archers must be calm and focused, yet remain aware of anything else that may be happening around them, at what is usually a very intense moment.  Proper shot placement is essential.  Experienced archers know that error at this moment can cause unnecessary suffering by the deer as well as excessive time and potential conflicts tracking and retrieving a deer.

Unless landowners learn to hunt, their role in this step is limited to granting access to archers.  See Individual Archer Standards for what to expect from your archer(s). 


Tracking and retrieval

Virginia law requires that reasonable efforts be made to retrieve any deer that has been shot and retain it in possession.  Respect for the deer requires that every legal method be applied to track and retrieve deer.  See Tracking and Retrieving in Reasons for Granting Access 

Landowners can assist in this step of the hunt by talking with neighbors about deer damages and how the hunt will be conducted.  Signed agreements by neighbors to grant access to hunt or to track and retrieve will help make hunts successful.  Provide these agreements to the archer or the organization he/she belongs to.


Field dressing 

In order to keep venison edible, a deer needs to be cooled down as soon as practically possible.  The first step in cooling down the deer is to field dress it, that is, to remove the entrails. Archers will normally place the entrails in a plastic bag, take them away, and dispose of them properly. 

Landowners should approve of field dressing deer on their properties as an essential part of the hunt. Landowners may elect to recycle the tissues by allowing wild animals to consume them.  This should be considered only where domestic animals are not likely to get access to the entrails.


Exiting property

Depending on where a deer succumbs, the archer may haul it to his/her vehicle or drive his vehicle to the deer.  Either way, this may be the most strenuous part of a hunt.  It is also the time when sensitive individuals are most likely to be exposed to the deer.  Respecting that sensitivity, archers will remove deer as soon as practical from property or roads where the public may encounter the deer to a property they have access to. Deer should be covered from view as soon as possible but no later than when they are loaded onto the archer’s vehicle.

Landowners who are on or near a property at the conclusion of a successful hunt can volunteer to help haul the deer.


Use of the deer

Out of respect for the deer and in compliance with the State’s expectation that game be put to beneficial use, every effort should be taken to keep the deer edible and to prepare and preserve it for that purpose.  Before a hunt, it should be understood whether the archer, the landowner, or a butcher will cool the deer and butcher it.  Because the archer contributes the greatest effort in obtaining the deer, he/she generally determines who will butcher a deer and who will use the venison: him/herself, the landowner or a charity such as Hunters for the Hungry.

Landowners may negotiate with the archer organization or the archer to receive some of the venison harvested on their property.