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Next month, a Richmond-based startup will take the sharing economy into new territory — deer hunting territory.
Outdoor Access, a website that matches hunters with private landowners, will launch during the first week of September — the start of the state’s urban archery season — in James City, York and Chesterfield counties.
“We wanted to let landowners know that there is a viable, legal option to bring order to the chaos caused by deer,” said Buck Robinson, the site’s co-founder. “Some people make us analogous to AirBnB, but we have a homeowner who has an issue, who has deer in their yard.”
Landowners can list their properties on Outdoor Access and use the site to set parameters on how their properties are used. Then qualified urban archers, through their membership with Outdoor Access, undergo background checks and make reservations to use the land. Once a reservation is made, Open Access offers an optional insurance plan for both parties during the reserved hunting dates.
“Whatever people want to use the tool for, we’ve created a platform for them to say ‘Hey I’ve got these deer and I want them gone,’” Robinson said
The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries established the urban archery season in 2002 with the goal of reducing “human/deer conflicts.” As a solution, the department concentrated archery-hunting in urban and suburban areas with high deer populations. Currently, about 45 cities and counties throughout the state participate in the season, including James City and York.
This year, urban archery season will run from Sept. 3-30 and restart again from Jan. 8 to March 26. As of Monday, Outdoor Access had 250 pre-registered urban archers and 23 properties listed within James City, York and Chesterfield counties.
“In almost every single case, they say the deer are beautiful animals,” Robinson said of landowners listing property on the site. “It’s not like they hate them, but they have taken over their yard. It was just a problem that needed a solution.”
In addition to local access during urban archery season, Outdoor Access members will also be able to hunt in other parts of the state during the general hunting season, as well as get special access for camping, fishing and other approved outdoor activities, Robinson said.
He says the company plans to expand outside Virginia as early as next year, to include properties across the Southeastern United States. His goal is to eventually operate on a national level. And despite community push back against other sites such as AirBnB, Robinson believes his model will succeed.
“A lot of people who may be against the sharing economy are usually against it because there’s an established format that is being threatened,” Robinson said. “In this case, there isn’t really anybody we’re stepping on the toes of. If anything it’s allowed a landowner to monetize something they wouldn’t normally be able to.”