Monday, Oct. 30, 2017
By Bryan Hendricks
Arkansas hunters are enthusiastic about the 2017-18 deer seasons.
They have good reason to be excited because Arkansas has a lot of deer, and hunters have a reasonable opportunity to bag a buck with trophy size antlers in every region of the state.
You can almost bet on killing at least one deer in the Natural State. Ralph Meeker, the deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said that nearly 70 percent of the state’s 313,000 licensed hunters killed a deer during the 2016-17 deer seasons, and that each hunter killed a statistical average of 1.2 deer.
Hunting opportunities abound. Our archery season is the longest continuous deer season in the nation, and it runs from the last weekend in September to Feb. 28. Two muzzleloader seasons offer 12 days of exclusive opportunities for smokepole hunters in October and December.
Our modern gun seasons are generous, but if you live in south Arkansas, it runs uninterrupted for nearly 40 days. That doesn’t include a five-day private lands modern gun hunt that spans the end of October and the beginning of November, nor does it include a three-day Christmas holiday modern gun hunt.
Additionally we also have two modern gun deer hunts for youngsters in November and January.
In 2016-17, Arkansas hunters killed 202,070 deer. Though significantly less than the record harvest of 213,487 deer in 2012-13, that’s still the fifth straight year our harvest topped 200,000.
In Deer Management Zones 1-2, hunters may kill any antlered buck, regardless of the number of points. Hunters there must check button bucks as button bucks, but they will not count toward a hunter’s two-buck seasonal limit.
In all other zones, a legal buck must have at least three points on one antler.
In the Gulf Coastal Plain, which includes the vast area that comprises Deer Management Zone 12, the buck harvest decreased slightly, but the doe harvest decreased significantly last year. That matters in terms of numbers, but it also reversed the recent trend of hunters killing more does than bucks.
Meeker said the lower harvest might be attributable to drought and a phenomenal mast crop might have contributed to a lower deer harvest in south Arkansas last year. Both dispersed deer across the countryside, which means hunters didn’t see as many deer, and they didn’t see them at consistent times.
The same pattern persists, which might produce similar harvest dynamics this year.
Meeker said that flooding might have killed a significant number of fawns in southeast Arkansas last year. That will depress deer populations temporarily and reduce the number of deer that hunters might see this season, as well.
I just returned from a long weekend in southern Newton County, which is experiencing a phenomenal acorn crop. The same is true in the Ouachitas, and in the hardwood forests of south Arkansas.
Scouting, as always, will improve your chances for success.