Although the population of whitetail deer have survived so far with limited food sources, they aren't quite out of the woods yet.
The late spring frost that struck the state April 6 through 8 killed many plants including the buds and flowers from the oak trees. Those buds and flowers develop into acorns -- the primary food source for deer. Experts say it was the latest frost experienced in North Arkansas in more than 100 years.
"Those acorns are gone," said Lt. Steve Taylor, who works in the enforcement division of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
With their primary food source absent, deer are having to find other means of survival.
While the late frost has had a substantial effect on the deer population, there hasn't been much die off of the local deer herds caused by something other than hunting, Taylor said.
That may change as 2008 approaches. While some hunters and deer watchers have food plots and corn set out for deer, he said he fears those food sources will be pulled soon due to cost and the end of the season.
"In January when the season is over with are they going to quit feeding them?" Taylor asked. "That's my concern."
While some deer are lucky enough to find those food plots and full feeders, others aren't so lucky. These deer often travel into the open to find sustenance. This traveling leads to more deer on the roadways and out in the open for hunters.
"It's been a good year for the hunter," Taylor said.
Archery season spans statewide from Oct. 1 through Feb. 29. The youth modern gun season was held Nov. 3-4 for children age 15 and younger. In deer zone 3, which is divided by the White, Black and Current rivers and includes Sharp, Fulton and Izard counties, the modern gun season was from Nov. 10 though 18 and opened again Nov. 22 through Dec. 2. The Christmas holiday modern gun deer hunt will be from Dec. 26-28. The first muzzleloading season was Oct. 13-21 and will open again Dec. 15 and last through the 17th.
Taylor said the quality of the deer this year, meaning the size of the antlers, is the biggest he has seen in his lifetime.
"I think the quality will be a record," he said.
While Taylor said he isn't sure quite what has led to the increased quality of deer killed this year, he said he does have his ideas. It could be because of the three-point rule, the acorn shortage and the minerals many hunters feed local herds.
The three-point rule calls for a legal buck to have both antlers shorter than two inches (a button buck) or have three or more points on one side of his rack, according to the AGFC Web site. When counting the number of points, the end of the main beam constitutes one point. Points must be at least one inch long to count.
"It's been a very, very unusual year in that respect," Taylor said.
Although the number of deer killed and checked at local check stations haven't been tallied as of yet, Taylor said he expects the number of deer harvested to also set a record.
Taylor said he expects the effects of the frost to have effected primarily the acorn production this year, but no one is 100 percent certain that it won't have an impact on the 2008 hunting season.
"That's a concern they (hunters) are voicing also," he said.
Feeding deer can be costly. The cheapest way to do so is with the use of food plots, according to information provided by M&W Forestry and Wildlife Services in Cave City. The following is a list of food plot types and some food plant species provided by M&W.
* Yearly planting in the fall of winter wheat, cold hardy oats or a mixture of these.
* Yearly planting in the spring of a mixture of Iron and Clay peas or red ripper cow peas with alyse clover (reseeding annual) and joint vetch (reseeding annual). Also, planting corn and beans in the summer to leave fallow in fall. This will add an additional winter food source plus vertical cover.
* More permanent plots planted in the spring or fall with mixtures of red and white clover and/or crimson clover (reseeding annual) with alfagraze (perennial) with a nurse crop in the fall of the first year of wheat, oats or rye. For turkey and other birds Marion and Korean lespedeza is good to add in the spring, and birds foot trefoil can be added in the spring or fall.
* The most permanent plots planted in early spring or fall of orchard grass mixed with arrowleaf clover (reseeding annual) in the fall, while alyce clover, joint vetch and lepedezas are good to add in the spring. Birdsfoot trefoil can be planted spring or fall.