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FORT SMITH – More than 250 concerned hunters filled the seats at two meetings held in northwest Arkansas last week focused on the most recent information and possible regulations changes concerning chronic wasting disease in The Natural State. The meetings, held in Fort Smith and Springdale, offered people a chance to hear and speak firsthand with biologists tracking the disease in Arkansas and attempting to slow its spread.

“The forum gave us an opportunity to speak directly to concerns hunters had and get feedback,” Jennifer Ballard, state wildlife veterinarian for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said. “People may be very nervous about CWD and what it means for our deer herd and for our hunters, so we’re trying to let people know everything we can about this disease and how our research is progressing.”

Prominent questions involved what to do with deer while waiting for CWD results to be returned and what to do to decontaminate any tools or processing equipment that may have handled CWD-infected animals.

“We are working to speed up the testing process as much as possible for hunters,” Ballard said. “And we are working with the Arkansas Department of Health to distribute as much information as possible to hunters and processors before the next deer season on best practices for handling wildlife and the latest information on the disease.”

In addition to the public in attendance, thousands of people have viewed the meeting via Facebook Live. Comments submitted through that channel also were answered by a panel of experts as the meeting took place. A link to the meetings is available at https://www.facebook.com/ARGameandFish/videos/10156327056788234/.

Key messages at the meeting centered on the recent suggestion from biologists to the Commission to add more counties to the CWD Management Zone, and to divide the zone based on the amount of positive cases found within that county. Boone, Carroll, Madison and Newton counties would encompass Tier One, from which no cervid (deer or elk) carcass other than deboned meat, hide, antlers, teeth, cleaned skulls and finished taxidermy products could be removed. Benton, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Logan, Pope, Searcy, Marion, Sebastian, Yell, Washington and Van Buren counties would become the second tier of the CWD Management Zone, from which the same products could not leave unless going to a Tier One county.

“Some counties have had only one or two positives, or have not had a positive, but are within 10 miles of one,” said Cory Gray, chief of the AGFC’s Research, Evaluation and Compliance Division. “We want to prevent deer carcasses from the hotter counties spreading the disease more quickly to those outer reaches of the zone.”

Anyone interested in reading these suggested changes and making a comment are encouraged to take the AGFC’s public comment survey at https://survey.agfc.com/index.php?r=survey/index&sid=479677&lang=en.

Visit www.arkansascwd.com for the latest information on chronic wasting disease in Arkansas.

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02142018Mississippi CWDVICKSBURG – A tissue sample collected Jan. 25 from a free-ranging white-tailed deer in extreme southern Issaquena County, Mississippi, returned the first known positive test of chronic wasting disease in the state.
The 4½-year-old buck died about 8 miles north of Vicksburg and was reported to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. The buck was found about 45 miles south-southeast of the southeastern corner of Arkansas.
According to a Feb. 9 press release, MDWFP implemented its CWD response plan, although the release did not go into detail about specific steps. Supplemental deer feeding was immediately banned in Claiborne, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren and Yazoo counties.
Issaquena County is across the Mississippi River from East Carroll Parish in Louisiana. Issaquena County, East Carroll Parish and Arkansas’s Chicot County meet in the southeastern corner of Arkansas and the northeastern corner of Louisiana. The northern boundary of Issaquena County is almost directly across the Mississippi River from the Arkansas-Louisiana state line.
Cory Gray, chief of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Research Education and Compliance Division, says biologists from Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana are already planning to meet and discuss future actions so each state can be on the same page.
“The discovery came at a difficult time to gather samples, as hunting season is nearly over in Arkansas with only a few bowhunters still looking for a deer,” Gray said. “We are reaching out to hunting clubs in the southeast corner of the state to keep a sharp eye out for any deer showing signs of CWD and to report it immediately.”
Gray says the AGFC plans to collect more hunter-harvested samples from the southeast corner of the state during the 2018-19 deer season. Other samples will come from target animals from public reports and roadkills.
“We are about to enter another season of collecting roadkill samples, and have already spoken to local biologists to increase that effort as much as possible,” Gray said. “From February 19 through April 1, we ask anyone seeing a road-killed deer to report it to our hotline at 1-800-482-9262. Anyone seeing any deer that shows signs of CWD should be reported to the same number immediately, day or night.”
For details about CWD developments in Mississippi, visit mdwfp.com.
For information about CWD in Arkansas, visit http://www.agfc.com/cwd.

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01172018firstdeerYou’re never too hold to harvest your first deer, as Ron Goza proved late last year.

Goza is 77, and the button buck he took recently allowed him to receive the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s certificate for “My First Deer.”

“I’ve hunted with my son-in-law the past few years and tried to get one and just never did, year after year, just never did. But I always say, maybe next year, maybe next year,” he said.

“Next year” finally arrived for Goza on a cold morning a few weeks back. “I was out there again with my son-in-law and I told him when we saw a deer, ‘Son, this is it, or not at all.’ About two seconds later, I took the shot.”

Goza says he fired a shot from his .30-30 rifle that appeared to pass through one shoulder of the buck and out the other. The deer began to run. Goza’s first thoughts: “Oh, no.” But then after a few yards, the deer dropped near a creek.

“I was happy, really happy, honestly happy,” he exclaimed with such excitement apparent in his voice even a few weeks after the event.

Goza said he grew up getting to hunt some with his grandfather, but mostly for squirrels around his native Cleburne County. His granddad let him hunt with a .22 rifle. He remembered later taking three squirrels on one trip with a single-shot 12-guage. But he said he never had a chance for a deer when he was younger. He says it wasn’t until he was in his early 60s that the chance for a deer arrived. He now lives with his youngest daughter and son-in-law in Louann in southern Arkansas, where this deer was taken.

“I’ve just enjoyed it, I love hunting, just love it very much,” Goza said. “This looks like it was a young deer, really. It was a good, nice-sized deer. The meat was real tender. Our pastor and my son-in-law dressed it and I’ve got it in my freezer, though we ate some already.

“I’ll be looking for the big buck next year. But this was a dream come true. I couldn’t hardly believe it, that I actually got one, I really got one.”

Hunters of all ages can memorialize the unforgettable experience of a first big hunting or fishing moment with a full-color AGFC certificate: first deer, first fish, first turkey and first duck. Visit www.agfc.com/freepubs, scroll to the bottom and choose the certificate you want to display to commemorate the accomplishment. Fill out the Portable Document File (.pdf) online and print on your color printer, or download the photo placement version to customize the certificate with an image of the lucky hunter and their harvest.

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Deer Hunting      LITTLE ROCK – There’s still a month and a half left in deer season for archery hunters, but Arkansas’s deer harvest already topped the 200,000-mark at the conclusion of the second modern gun youth hunt held Jan. 6-7. This is the sixth straight year Arkansas hunters have reached this milestone.

Arkansas record harvest came in 2012, when hunters harvested 213,487 deer. Although this year’s harvest likely will fall short of that number, the season is fairly consistent with last year’s total harvest of 202,070.

Ralph Meeker, deer program coordinator, says the consistent harvest numbers from recent years are a good indication that Arkansas deer populations are beginning to stabilize.

“Balancing and stabilizing the state’s deer population are two of the goals of the AGFC Strategic Deer Management Plan,” Meeker said. “We want to balance the deer herd with the available habitat and the people who live in Arkansas. We’ve seen good growth for the last few decades, and now it’s time to maintain our deer where they are abundant for hunters, but not so much that they outgrow their habitat or people’s tolerance of them throughout the year.”

Meeker says one noticeable bright spot in this year’s season is the amount of deer being checked from Zone 12. Last year saw a noticeable decrease in harvest, particularly does, in that zone.

“So far, we’re back to similar harvests from the four or five years prior to last,” Meeker said.

Meeker says he’s also seen pictures of some impressive deer and heard about many more trophy-size bucks being taken this year than usual throughout the state.

“Last fall we had a great mast crop in much of the state, followed by a wet spring and early summer that allowed for good growth of natural vegetation. That combination provides a lot of good nutrition for developing antlers and weight gain,” Meeker said. “It will be interesting to see what comes in at this year’s Big Buck Classic.”

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Youth hunters harvested nearly 9,500 during the two-day 2016 youth hunt.

Youth hunters harvested nearly 9,500 during the two-day 2016 youth hunt.

Cooler temperatures and the first good signs of rutting activity beckoned well for the first youth hunt of the 2016-17 deer season last weekend, and Arkansas’s young guns did not disappoint. Hunters harvested 9,429 deer during the two-day season.
According to Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the harvest is lower than last year’s 12,000-deer youth hunt, but is very similar to the 2014 season, in which youth hunters took just over 9,700 deer.
Since the development of internet and telephone checking, biologists and the public can see the harvest in real time by visiting https://www.ark.org/agfc/gamecheck/reports.php. According to checked numbers, Arkansas’s deer harvest is at about 51,000 deer statewide. Again, this is below last year’s harvest of 64,000, but on track with the year before, which had 53,000 deer checked by this point in the season.
The slow start to this season has had a few hunters concerned. But Gray says things should balance out as cooler weather sets in and more hunters enter the woods.

Cooler weather had deer moving for the morning of the hunt.

Cooler weather had deer moving for the morning of the hunt.

“We often see hunting seasons start off slowly, but quickly catch-up as the season progresses,” Gray said. “The opening weekend of modern gun season and the week of Thanksgiving will be crucial periods for state harvest.”
The AGFC will be continuing to monitor for the spread of chronic wasting disease during opening weekend of modern gun season by manning 25 biological sampling sites within 10 counties in northern Arkansas. Biologists ask all hunters who wish to voluntarily submit their deer for sampling on Nov. 12-13 to bring any checked deer from Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy and Yell counties to one of the following sites:

Boone County

  • Alpena Community Building, 107 Highway 62 E., Alpena
  • Anderson’s Propane, 8563 Highway 7 N., Harrison
  • Anderson’s Store, 12181 Highway 62 E., Harrison

Carroll County

  • Carroll County Fairgrounds, 104 County Road 401, Berryville

Johnson County

  • Haggarville Grocery, 11925 SR 123, Lamar
  • McCormick’s One Stop, 7823 Highway 103, Clarksville
  • Oark General Store and Café, 10360 County Road 5440, Oark

Logan County

  • New Blaine Fire Dept., 9 Highway 197 Loop, New Blaine

Madison County

  • Combs Store and Café, 10342 Highway 16, Combs
  • McIlroy Madison County WMA headquarters, Highway 23

Marion County

  • Pyatt, Crooked Creek Access, Highway 62 W., Pyatt
  • Yellville City Park, Highway 14, Yellville

Newton County

  • Arkansas Forestry Commission Office, Route 1, Box 275, Western Grove
  • National Park Service Maintenance Shop, HCR 73 Box 176B, Marble Falls
  • Ponca Elk Education Center, Highway 43, Ponca
  • USFS Office, 18360 Highway 16 W., Deer

Pope County

  • Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department Storage Facility, Sand Gap (1 mile south of Highway 7/16/123 intersection)
  • City of London Maintenance Shop, 3731 SR 333, London
  • Downtown Mini-Mart, 102 W. Main St. (Highway 64/105 intersection), Atkins
  • Fountain’s Grocery, 36386 Highway 27, Tilly
  • USFS Big Piney Ranger District Office, 12000 SR 27, Hector

Searcy County

  • Arkansas Forestry Commission, 602 Highway 65 N., Marshall
  • Misty’s Conoco, 6542 Highway 65 N., Leslie

Yell County

  • Ouachita Livestock Market, 12115 N. State Highway 7, Danville
  • Yell County Wildlife Federation, 10035 Wildlife Lane, Dardanelle

Hunters outside of these 10 counties may contact a veterinarian from the list provided at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/CWD/CWDVets.pdf if they wish to learn the CWD-status of deer they have harvested. However, the hunter will be responsible for the cost of these tests outside of the 10-county CWD Management Zone.

Hunters must be 6 years old to legally tag and check deer in Arkansas.

Hunters must be 6 years old to legally tag and check deer in Arkansas.

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Hunters are advised to report any deer that looks sick to the AGFC at 1-800-482-9262. AGFC photo.

Hunters are advised to report any deer that looks sick to the AGFC at 1-800-482-9262. AGFC photo.

A list of veterinarians who have expressed interest in collecting samples and testing hunter-harvested deer for chronic wasting disease has been published on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/CWD/CWDVets.pdf.

All results from the tests will be shared with the AGFC, but it is the responsibility of the hunter to pay any fees associated with using one of the listed veterinarians to process samples.

The AGFC will test hunter-harvested deer taken from the CWD Management Zone (Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy and Yell counties) on a voluntary basis during opening weekend of deer season (Nov. 12-13).

AGFC staff will be collecting CWD samples from hunter-harvested elk Nov. 12-13 in the CWD Management Zone. AGFC Photo.

AGFC staff will be collecting CWD samples from hunter-harvested elk Nov. 12-13 in the CWD Management Zone. AGFC Photo.

According to Cory Gray, AGFC deer program coordinator, the AGFC’s deer team developed the list of vets to offer hunters outside of those counties or those who harvest deer outside of opening weekend the opportunity to test their deer if they wished.

“We can’t test every deer harvested in the state, but we do want to offer an option for hunters who are concerned with the possibility of the deer they harvested having CWD,” Gray said. “While a CWD test is not a food safety test, it may put some hunters’ minds at ease about serving it to their family.”

The recent detection of chronic wasting disease has many hunters concerned about the safety of eating venison, but there shouldn’t be any reason to worry. Hunter-harvested venison is still one of the healthiest forms of protein you can find, free of preservatives, steroids and other chemicals that can be found in some farm-raised foods.

“There isn’t any confirmed case of CWD spreading to any species outside of the cervid family (deer, elk, moose and caribou),” said Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. “But the World Health Organization and Arkansas Department of Health both advise against eating any animal known to have CWD.”

Hunters shouldn’t eat any animal showing obvious signs of any illness.

“Any hunter anywhere in the state who sees a deer showing symptoms of CWD should report it to 1-800-482-9262,” Gray said. “We can dispatch someone to collect samples from that animal and will let the person reporting know the outcome of the tests.”
Gray says biologists have collected thousands of samples during summer throughout the state, and the extended search for CWD will begin to slow once the first week of modern gun season has ended.

“We anticipate reigning back on our sampling beginning Nov. 18,” Gray said. “We’ll still be collecting samples from sick deer, but road kill samples will drop to weekdays during normal business hours.”

Hunters may voluntarily submit their deer for CWD testing to a list of veterinarians available at www.agfc.com/cwd. AGFC photo.

Hunters may voluntarily submit their deer for CWD testing to a list of veterinarians available at http://www.agfc.com/cwd. AGFC photo.

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The climb into the treestand can tax any hunter who's out of shape. Photo by Cara Holland

The climb into the treestand can tax any hunter who’s out of shape. Photo by Cara Holland

Hunters are beginning to scout, prepare food plots and set trail cameras to pattern the biggest buck in the area as summer wanes and the thrill of the next deer season builds. That same effort should be used to prepare their body for the stresses of the coming season. Nutrition and physical conditioning are keystones for success in the field, but often are overlooked.

Hunting situations provide many intense physical demands. Even hunters who do not travel far on foot still must climb in tree stands and hopefully drag out a downed deer. The real work starts after taking a game animal, and it’s a hunter’s responsibility to recover their harvest no matter the situation. Hauling a 100+ pound deer up a ridge will cause anyone to break a sweat.

Sportsmen should be aware of their limitations to ensure they do not over-exhaust themselves while pursuing game. This concept is discussed in the National Bowhunter Education Foundation’s guide, Today’s Bowhunter:

“Conditions that hamper your physical ability to perform safely and responsibly while
hunting include: asthma, a heart condition, excess weight and poor physical conditioning.”

Hunters should stay hydrated and fuel their body with nutrient-rich foods. These are the fundamental steps in staying healthy. Kathleen Robinson, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America-certified personal trainer and personal training manager at 10 Fitness Maumelle, explains, “Dehydration causes fatigue and cravings for sugar and carbohydrates as energy sources.” Robinson continues, “More serious issues like certain infections can come from long-term dehydration, so drink to your health.”

Add a couple slices of lemon or cucumber for flavor, and keep a full cup of water nearby to stay hydrated all day.

Add a couple slices of lemon or cucumber for flavor, and keep a full cup of water nearby to stay hydrated all day.

Put in the work now to improve abilities during the season. Some simple changes in daily habits can yield good long-term results in the field:

1. Take the longer route when possible.
Parking further away forces you to be more active during daily tasks such as visiting the local outdoors shop or walking in to work every morning. These extra steps add up over time to help hike extra miles in the deer woods.

2. Skip the elevator.
Elevators are overrated. Opt for the stairs to add even more steps. Stairs also simulate inclines you’ll find in the field. Those hills aren’t going to climb themselves come hunting season.

3. Join a gym.
Gym memberships can be as cheap as $10 a month and offer a variety of machines for anyone to hop on and bust out an extra 20-30 minutes of heart-pumping cardio. Increase the incline on the machine to get your heartrate up and ready for climbing treestands.

4. Cut carbonation.
There is nothing healthy about a drink containing 30+ grams of sugar. Avoid “zero calorie” drinks also. They contain artificial sweeteners that have a worse effect on the body’s blood sugar levels. A sugar rush only leads to a crash and no one wants to be snoozing on the job or in the stand.

5. Avoid vending machines.
Bring homemade snacks to work or on the go. Snack bags packed with vegetables, fruit or even slices of deer jerky from last season will curb hunger longer than sugar-filled candy. Other snacks could include a handful of mixed nuts or two tablespoons of peanut butter.

6. Drink more water.
Robinson further explains why drinking water is important to everyone, “Staying hydrated is how the body cools itself, removes toxins and waste and helps to lubricate joints.” Add a couple slices of lemon or cucumber for flavor and keep a full cup nearby to stay hydrated all day.

Don’t try to do everything all at once. Take it one step at a time turning these simple daily tasks into habits. Overall, keep active in everyday life to be able to take the next step in your hunting adventures.

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