Antler­less hunt of­fers a head start to deer sea­son

The Saline Courier - - NEWS - Spe­cial to The Sa­line Courier

LIT­TLE ROCK — With the heat fi­nally break­ing and a few Arkansans even spot­ted in sweat­shirts, the itch to spend a quiet morn­ing in the woods is in full ef­fect. Hunters who can’t stand the wait un­til mod­ern gun sea­son opens have a great op­por­tu­nity to get out and get some meat in the freezer dur­ing Arkansas’s pri­vate land antler­less deer hunt, Oct. 12-16.

Only antler­less deer may be har­vested with a mod­ern gun dur­ing the hunt, and the hunt only takes place on pri­vate land. This in­cludes any land leased by hunt­ing clubs or in­di­vid­u­als from tim­ber com­pa­nies and other landown­ers.

Hunters in­ter­ested in hunt­ing for a buck may still bowhunt, but must wear hunter or­ange. The hunter must also choose be­fore hunt­ing whether they are bowhunt­ing or us­ing a mod­ern gun; only one hunt­ing de­vice may be car­ried dur­ing the hunt.

Brad Carner, chief of the AGFC’S wildlife man­age­ment divi­sion ex­plains that the tim­ing of the hunt is to en­able hunters to take a doe be­fore the rut is in full swing.

“Tra­di­tional doe days be­ing at the end of the sea­son of­ten left states short on their pre­ferred doe har­vest,” Carner said. “Many peo­ple would hunt for a buck all year, then only de­vote the last few days to does and would not see one on those days. Ear­lier in the sea­son, we see more par­tic­i­pa­tion from hunters who are look­ing to fill the freezer be­fore they go af­ter a buck.”

Hunters have had mixed feel­ings about the five-day hunt since it first was added to the sea­son a few years ago. Some hunters rooted in tra­di­tion still be­lieve the ad­di­tional har­vest of does can hurt the deer herd, but the deer herd has changed greatly since the days of “buck only” har­vest, and changes must be made to en­sure bal­ance.

In the 1940s through the 1970s, the fo­cus on deer con­ser­va­tion was to bring back the pop­u­la­tion from near ex­tinc­tion. By the 1980s, deer were plen­ti­ful and ad­just­ments were needed to bal­ance the herd with the habi­tat avail­able. A balanced har­vest is needed to main­tain the health of the herd, and in the last decade the har­vest has been fairly well balanced. Even with all the added op­por­tu­nity to har­vest does, Arkansas hunters rarely fail to har­vest more bucks than does. In fact, the 2015-16 deer hunt­ing sea­son is the only sea­son on record in which the doe har­vest was higher. Even in that year, it was ex­tremely close to be­ing an even bal­ance, with 108,118 does and 104,792 bucks checked by hunters.

With last year’s to­tal har­vest of 210,065, Carner is con­fi­dent that the deer herd has reached a healthy sus­tain­able level and cur­rent sea­son dates are bal­anc­ing things out well.

“We’ve had seven years in a row above the 200,000-deer mark, and the to­tal har­vest has not fluc­tu­ated widely from year to year,” Carner said. “This is a good in­di­ca­tion that the pop­u­la­tion is not ex­pe­ri­enc­ing rapid growth or rapid de­clines and that our har­vest strat­egy is work­ing well. It may al­ways need a small change or two to ad­just to trends in pop­u­la­tions and peo­ple, but for now it is cor­rect for the deer, the habi­tat and the hunters.”

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