Urban deer hunters this fall will do their part to control dear populations, hunting by bow on deer stands throughout Horseshoe Bend and Cherokee Village, during a designated special hunting season; while making a exemplarily contribution to food banks in the area.
Each hunter's first deer of the hunt will be donated to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry (AHFH) of Little Rock, Ark. AHFH works with meat processors, paying for the processing, then the meat is donated to food pantries in the same area that the hunt was in. Arkansas Game and Fish and the Arkansas Bow Hunter's Association purchased a refrigerated truck to transport the first deer of each hunter to the meat processing plants.
"A lot of those pantries get donations of canned goods, but not meat goods," said Ted Zawislak, private lands biologist for Arkansas Game and Fish. Zawislak has held a key role in developing the urban deer hunts in northern Arkansas.
AHFH was founded in 2000 by Bob Barringer of Little Rock; Ronnie Ritter of Hot Springs joined AHFH shortly after its founding and took over as president in the fall of2007.
Barringer got the idea from a foundation in Maryland, Ritter said. "The concept is fairly original. We've grown tremendously over the past couple of years. I hope to spend more time on the foundation in the next few years."
AHFH works closely with the Game and Fish and the Arkansas Bow Hunter's Association to streamline the process of procuring and processing of the first-kill deer, Ritter said.
Arkansas Bow Hunter's Association set the first-kill donation guidelines, he said.
"These urban hunts will provide a real boost to the number of deer we take in," he said. "It's just a real blessing to see that food go to those that are in need. "
"Hunting always depends on so many variables, we are looking to expand these hunts. A lot of these communities are becoming overrun with deer. To some people an urban hunt isn't a good idea, but at some point you have to do what you can to control the deer populations."
Conducting the hunts ahead of the normal season allows all hunters to have ample opportunity to catch game. In Cherokee Village, 270 deer were killed last year, Zawislack said.
"These people are hunting outside of the normal hunting season," he said. "That is a big key. These are the only legal places in the state that they can hunt that early."
Near the end of August, the Game and Fish will do a spotlight count with cooperation from the Horseshoe Bend Police. "After that count we will have a better idea of the deer population," he said.
More hunters will be able to participate in the future. Although 135 hunters will hunt in Horseshoe Bend, up to 250 spots were available at the time applications were opened.
"We are splitting the hunters among three places," Zawislak said. "That probably had something to do with it," Zawislak said. "That's not a bad thing. There will be less hunter conflicts and everyone that really wants to apply can get one. We got enough hunters to take care of the problem so I'm not worried about that."
Horseshoe Bend will be one of four urban hunts in Arkansas, including: Horseshoe Bend, Cherokee Village, Bull Shoals and Hot Springs Village, according to the Game and Fish Web site.
Applicants may be running thinner than initially expected, but the bar for those allowed to participate in the urban hunt remains high.
All 135 applicants will be expected to take an eight-hour International Bowhunter Education Course before the hunter-oriented shooting proficiency test on Aug. 29 at Veteran's Park for the Horseshoe Bend hunt. Hunts in Horseshoe Bend and Cherokee Village will be held Sept. 8-Nov. 15 and Jan. 1-31, 2010.
Hunters are instructed to hunt from stands only, at least 50 yards off designated trails, parks or any occupied dwelling without written permission. All deer must be checked at Horseshoe Bend City Hall.
"We normally turn away five to six people that can't pass the proficiency test," Zawislack said. Among the requirements of the test, bowhunters must be able to hit three arrows of six at a life-size deer target at 20 yards.
"Most of the guys that are in this do archery tournaments and are used to shooting," Zawislack said.
Currently, there are no practical management options for controlling deer numbers in urban areas. Regulated hunting is a cost effective and efficient way to manage deer populations, said Brad Miller, state-wide deer program coordinator, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Over population of deer can lead to lean winters. State sanction urban deer hunts are becoming more common place across the country.
"It's more and more common," Miller said. The Game and Fish partners with the Arkansas Bow Hunter's Association to put on the four urban hunts in the state. "They help with a lot of the training, making sure the hunters have met the prerequisites and provides insurance for the hunt, that would be provided otherwise by the towns," he said.
"These are areas where there are a wide variety of opinions on deer, and how they should be approached as far as management," Miller said. "While some view them as pets, others hate them because they eat their petunias and rose bushes or because they have hit a deer with a car."