Last year deer hunters bagged 213,487 whitetails, making 2012 the highest deer harvest year on record. The previous record was 194,687, set back in 1999. The state doesn’t collect deer population data, but bowhunters consistently report seeing a buck-to-doe ratio of about 1:2.5, which is outstanding for any state.
Unlike their cousins to the North, few Arkansas deer died from epizootic hemorrhagic disease in 2012. This year no EHD-related deaths have been reported (at the time of this report), so whitetails will go into the fall in good shape.
“The 2013 hunting season could be another record breaking year,” said Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “We are seeing high amounts of fawns being recruited into the population, and hunters should have a great season.”
There are a plethora of regulation changes in 2013. For example, deer bag limits have changed in several Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs); the minimum archery draw weight has been reduced to 35 lbs.; adult mentors may not possess firearms during the special youth modern gun deer hunts; and legal buck definitions have changed for several WMAs. For more information, including additional regulation changes, hunters should refer to the 2013-14 Arkansas Hunting Guidebook.
While the state has 125 WMAs, hunters looking to bag a nice buck on public land should try one of the “Sweet 16” WMAs that have been managed by the department to hold more bucks 3 ½-years old and older. Each of the 16 WMAs has unique antler restrictions in place, enabling more bucks to survive hunting season, mature, and grow big racks.