The Virginia Indians hunted deer on Jamestown Island when the English chose the spot for James Fort. When relations between the two peoples were stable, the Virginia Indians supplied the colonists with deer meat. Captain John Smith noted, “the Emperor Powhatan each week once or twice sent presents of deer.” But when relations worsened, that supply was cut off. During the “starving time” winter of 1609-1610 the Virginia Indians drove off all the big game from the area to starve the colonists in the fort.
Processed deer remains commonly show up in the English trash pits at the fort site. Virginia Indians living in the fort made use of deer remains after the meat had been salvaged. For example, archaeologists found the tips of antlers that were used for arrow points. Archaeologists have also come across tools made from deer bones such as beamers used for scraping the hides of animals clean. Small bone needles made from deer bones would have been used by Indians to make baskets or fish nets.
In the 17th century, as the number of cattle in the region soared, the deer population dwindled because of the competition for food resources. As the region became more wooded again with the decline of farming in recent decades, the deer population near and on Jamestown Island has exploded.