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Deer hunting headed for another banner season

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Again, it is a banner deer hunting season in Arkansas. Current statistics indicate the total should pass 200,000 for only the second time in history.

Last year, Arkansas hunters checked 213,487, well above the previous high mark.

More important, however, are the indications that (1) the state's deer herd is healthy and thriving, and (2) the ratio of bucks to does is moving closer to ideal.

This year's deer check total has passed 175,000. The numbers are slowing since modern gun season has closed in much of the state. But it remains open in deer-rich south Arkansas, and the three-day Holiday hunt is still to come.

Ralph Meeker is the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's assistant deer program coordinator. He said that ultimately, he and Cory Gray, deer program coordinator, aren't overly concerned about the number of deer killed each year. They are more interested in the biological data they collect from the deer that hunters kill.

"We're really looking to see that people are successful and having a good time, that the deer population is successful and that we can keep it that way for generations to come for people to enjoy," Meeker said. "We don't get real excited about breaking records. We're more excited that hunters are getting out there, participating and helping us keep the deer herd healthy."

Why the recent increases in numbers of deer taken by hunters? Three basic reasons, according to the Game and Fish Commission.

One is deer are plentiful in the state, even over-abundant in places. Wildlife biologists estimate Arkansas has a million or more deer today.

Another reason is weather has been favorable for deer hunting with just a few rainy days.

Limits and seasons are more liberal than in past years. There is a six-deer season limit although most deer zones have lower limits.

Hunters can go to multiple zones to reach that limit of six, but AGFC staff members believe a comparatively small number of outdoors people reach that limit of six.

License sales indicate the number of number of hunters in Arkansas has not increased significantly, but unlike many other states, the numbers have not dropped either.

The hunting of doe, female, deer was prohibited in Arkansas for many years. As numbers of deer improved, limited doe hunting was allowed then expanded to keep male and female ratios in balance.

This season nearly as many does have been taken by hunters as bucks. Current totals show roughly 55 percent adult and button bucks have been checked to 45 percent does.

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