August 13, 2012
Arkansas Deer Season 2012: Hunting Forecast - 0
“Our herd is in most cases either stable to increasing, and we’re right at around one million deer,” said Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “Last year, hunters took 197,000 deer, our second highest harvest on record going back to 1938.”
Like many states, Arkansas got drier as the summer progressed, and Gray was concerned that the quality of deer forage was on the decline as the heat and dry conditions continued. He was right to worry. By mid-August, nearly half of the state was in “exceptional” drought, the worst category. These areas included much of north and central Arkansas and part of the timberlands of southwest Arkansas.
Media reports had 80 percent of the state’s pasture lands dried up. Bad news for farmers, of course, but also an indication that natural vegetation was undoubtedly being stressed, with less and less nutritional value for deer as the drought extended into the late summer. Meanwhile, more Arkansas suburbanites were calling in complaints of deer damage to their vegetable gardens and flowerbeds as the deer moved around in search of new food sources. One species does very well in drought: ticks. Gray said he has received an increasing number of reports of deer literally covered in ticks, especially fawns and does. That high tick load, Gray suspects, could kill off a number of fawns. That won’t have any impact on this fall’s hunt, but could be felt in future deer seasons.
The most significant change in the regulations this year concerns new antler restrictions. In Hunt Zones 16, 16A, and 17, a buck must have a 15-inch inside spread or 18-inch main beam before it can be harvested. This requirement also applies to the Bayou Meto, Cut-Off Creek and Trusten Holder Wildlife Management Areas (WMA’s).
There are also a variety of antler and point restrictions on a number of Arkansas WMA’s, put in place by the Game and Fish Commission to grow bigger bucks. The new restrictions are listed at: www.agfc.com.
The Southern Regional Report