Records in Arkansas deer hunting made handy conversation items even if they are well down the priority list for state wildlife managers.
All indications are the deer hunting season now under way could be one of the best of all time in Arkansas in terms of numbers of deer checked by hunters.
Corry Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said, "The hunt is going real well. We are well above the totals for this time last year. I think we will break the 200,000 mark this year."
Already, hunters have checked more than 150,000 deer. That includes the earlier hunts – archery, antlerless, modern gun, muzzle-loader and youth.
The nearly ideal weather of opening Saturday of the modern gun hunt accounted for a boost in numbers of deer checked, and rain the following day slowed things just a bit. Weekends generally bring out the most hunters, and the Thanksgiving holidays are still more of a boost.
In the modern gun statistics, bucks are running at about a 2 to 1 ratio to does. That was the case in the youth hunt, too, but in the muzzle-loader hunt and the archery-only days so far, more doe have been taken. The buck-doe ratio is close to even overall for the current season.
Arkansas’ record deer hunt was in 1999-2000 when 194,687 were taken. Last year was the second highest in number of deer checked – 192,512,according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
The seasonal totals are a little hard to grasp, a bit slippery, because of varying factors in hunting season lengths and rules.
For wildlife managers, more focus is on getting the deer in balance, meaning a more favorable ratio of bucks to does. Another priority is health, and Arkansas deer generally are in good shape, although there were a few reports of hemorrhagic disease some weeks back. The dreaded chronic wasting disease has not been found in Arkansas.
"Some deer appear to have survived hemorrhagic disease but may show the effects of it," Gray said.
Over the years, the number of days when doe could be taken have varied, so that makes for unlevel ground when comparing one year’s deer totals to another.
Weather plays a major factor in deer hunting statistics. Rain and wind reduce the number of deer taken by hunters more than cold weather. Opening weekend of modern gun season is usually the highest in participation, with the number of hunters in the field declining as the season progresses.
Some Arkansas waterfowl enthusiasts go deer hunting for a few days before duck season opens, then they exchange fluorescent orange and rifles for waders and shotguns.
This year, 18,095 deer were checked on opening day of modern gun season. The following day was rainy, and 8,885 deer were check. The third day was Veterans Day, a holiday, and hunters checked 11,371 deer. By comparison, the second Saturday of modern gun season had 9,455 deer checked, and the second Sunday had 6,199 checked. Both of those days had good weather.
The modern gun season has already ended in one Northeast Arkansas zone and will soon end in others in the Northeast. Closing dates vary from Dec. 2, to Dec. 9, to Dec. 16 and to Dec. 25 in other zones. Then there is the three-day modern gun Christmas Holiday Hunt on Dec. 26, 27 and 28.
Check the AGFC’s Hunting Guidebook for more detailed information. The Guidebook is free and available at any AGFC office and at more sporting goods outlets.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org