Deer hunters ready to fire mod­ern guns

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - SPORTS - BRYAN HENDRICKS

Nearly half a mil­lion hunters in Arkansas will be afield to­day for the open­ing day of mod­ern gun deer sea­son.

Although Arkansas is fa­mous for its world-class duck hunt­ing, it is also one of the top deer-hunt­ing states in the South in terms of both num­bers of deer taken and qual­ity of bucks, or male deer. Open­ing week­end of the mod­ern gun deer sea­son is also the state’s big­gest event in terms of par­tic­i­pa­tion.

Keith Stephens, chief of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the Arkansas Game and Fish Com­mis­sion, said about 300,000 li­censed hunters will hunt to­day. If you in­clude youths younger than age 16 and se­niors over age 65, he said the num­ber is ac­tu­ally closer to 500,000.

“As Arkansans, I think deer hunt­ing is in our DNA,” Stephens said. “It’s not only the hunt. It’s about spend­ing time with fam­ily and friends in the woods. I en­joy be­ing in a stand and just watch­ing the woods come alive at day­break.”

“Of course, there’s noth­ing like the adren­a­line rush of watch­ing a deer move through the woods as you wait for that clear shot.”

Ralph Meeker, the Game and Fish Com­mis­sion’s deer project leader, said that open­ing week­end of mod­ern gun deer sea­son is a vi­tal part of Arkansas cul­ture.

“Open­ing week­end of mod­ern gun deer sea­son in Arkansas is a his­tor­i­cal event,” Meeker said. “We will har­vest be­tween 35,000 and 40,000 deer on Satur­day and Sun­day. That’s a pretty sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­age of our to­tal deer har­vest, which we ex­pect will be over 200,000.”

Mod­ern gun deer sea­son is his­tor­i­cal, Meeker said, be­cause deer were nearly ex­tir­pated in the early 1900s be­cause of un­reg­u­lated hunt­ing. Through re­stock­ing and con­ser­va­tive man­age­ment, deer herds re­cov­ered to such abun­dance that hunters have taken more than 200,000 deer per year for nearly a decade.

“What we’ll all ex­pe­ri­ence to­mor­row is a cul­mi­na­tion of all deer man­age­ment ef­forts,” Meeker said. “Fam­i­lies get­ting to­gether at deer camp and en­joy­ing the bounty that

we have is a tes­ta­ment to past man­age­ment ef­forts.

“It’s like an early Christ­mas for a lot of folks.”

Mod­ern gun sea­son is also when hunters kill the big­gest per­cent­age of the deer of the sea­son. Of the 205,220 deer that hunters re­ported killing in the 2017-2018 deer sea­sons, about 75 per­cent were killed dur­ing the mod­ern gun sea­son, Meeker said. Of those, ac­cord­ing to AGFC data, 36,884 were killed dur­ing the open­ing week­end, more than any other week­end.

Arkansas sched­ules its mod­ern gun deer sea­son to co­in­cide roughly with the rut, or the white­tailed deer’s breed­ing pe­riod.

The peak of the rut varies across the state, but rut­ting ac­tiv­ity should be oc­cur­ring in all parts of the state right now.

For the third con­sec­u­tive sea­son, the AGFC will sam­ple large num­bers of deer for chronic wast­ing dis­ease, a fa­tal, com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­ease to deer that, so far, is con­cen­trated in the Ozarks re­gion. Meeker said he en­cour­ages hunters to take their deer to the sta­tions for sam­pling.

De­tailed in­for­ma­tion about chronic wast­ing dis­ease in Arkansas is avail­able on­line at arkansascwd.com. The site also lists CWD test­ing lo­ca­tions, as well as vet­eri­nar­i­ans

and taxi­der­mists who are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the sam­pling ef­fort.

For those who don’t hunt pri­vate land, Arkansas of­fers more than 3 mil­lion acres of pub­lic hunt­ing in the Ozark and Oua­chita na­tional forests. About 25 per­cent of Arkansas’ deer hunters pur­sue their game on pub­lic land.

Some ar­eas in eastern Arkansas, specif­i­cally Flood Prone Zone C, are closed to deer hunt­ing be­cause of flood con­di­tions. Meeker said that Henry Gray Hur­ri­cane Lake Wildlife Man­age­ment Area will prob­a­bly re­open, and that its con­trolled mod­ern gun deer hunt will pro­ceed as planned. Rex Han­cock Black Swamp WMA will prob­a­bly re­main closed, Meeker added.

Deer hunters are re­quired to wear a flu­o­res­cent cap and vest or jacket dur­ing the mod­ern gun sea­son.

They also must pos­sess a hunt­ing li­cense and proper tags and should carry an ink pen and a rub­ber band, length of wire or zip tie so they can fill out their tag and at­tach it to their deer be­fore trans­port­ing it.

Suc­cess­ful hunters can check deer us­ing a smart phone with the AGFC’s game check ap­pli­ca­tion, on­line at agfc.com, or by call­ing (877) 731-5627.

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