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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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Turkey hunting      LITTLE ROCK – Turkey season may open at the beginning of April, but now is the time to begin your planning for a successful season. One of the best ways to be successful on public land is to apply for one of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s wildlife management area turkey hunt permits beginning Jan. 15. Applications are available through the AGFC’s online licensing system at https://ar-web.s3licensing.com.

Many good public turkey hunting opportunities exist, particularly on the large cooperative WMAs owned by the U.S. Forest Service. However, turkeys and turkey hunters need room to spread out, which can lead to conflicts between hunters on some smaller WMAs. To increase the quality of the hunt on some of the most popular public areas, the AGFC restricts the number of hunters allowed during turkey season through random drawings.

Only permit holders may hunt on the WMA during the permit hunt. However, a permit holder can have a friend alongside them to call for them to help them harvest a bird. Friends and family may camp with permit holders at designated campsites on the WMA.

“Spring is a great time to be out in the woods with family and friends, and we want to help keep that tradition going, even if only one person is hunting,” said Jason Honey, Turkey Program coordinator for the AGFC.

Applications are taken electronically through http://www.agfc.com, from Jan. 15 through Feb. 15, and winning applicants will be notified via email.

Applications require a $5 nonrefundable processing fee, but winning applicants are not required to pay any additional fees other than the purchase of their hunting license.

“The new system was put in place last year, and really streamlined the application and draw process,” said Brad Carner, chief of wildlife management for the AGFC. “Each year, many permits were left unclaimed because people applied who did not go through with purchasing the permit. With the up-front fee, only people who are serious about claiming and using a permit are likely to apply.”

Carner says the new system saw a decrease in the number of applicants to the AGFC’s permit draws for all species which was expected, but harvest numbers and participation in the hunts remained high.

“We received some reports from our staff of noticeable increases in participation for some hunts,” Carner said. “And with the streamlining of the process, unclaimed permits were minimal when it came time to sell them, which resulted in much less confusion.”

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Deer at Buck Hollow Ranch in Warm Springs, Ark. near Pocahontas

Three new Arkansas counties have been confirmed as CWD-positive from this year’s deer hunting season.

LITTLE ROCK – Chronic wasting disease, detected in Arkansas almost two years ago, has been found in three more counties. Four white-tailed deer in Benton, Washington and Sebastian counties recently tested positive for the deadly disease, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

The deer in Benton County were a 2½-year-old doe near Decatur and a 5½-year-old doe near Springtown. The Sebastian County deer was an adult buck near Lavaca, and the one from Washington County was a 1½-year-old buck near Prairie Grove. All four were harvested by hunters during the 2017-18 deer season, and confirmed as CWD-positive by the Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Madison.

Test results have not been received for all samples that have been collected; it’s possible more deer and elk could test positive for the disease. Since these positive samples were detected outside the current CWD Management Zone, the AGFC will continue their review to ensure all information is accurate.

“Although CWD is a serious threat to Arkansas’s elk and white-tailed deer, we are not the first to deal with the disease,” AGFC Director Pat Fitts said. “Our staff is prepared and, with help from the public, will respond with effective measures. We have learned from the experiences of 23 other states.”

CWD was first detected in Arkansas Feb. 23, 2016, when a hunter-harvested elk in Newton County tested positive. The first Arkansas deer with CWD was verified March 3, 2016, also in Newton County.

Public meetings in the area will be scheduled as forums to discuss plans and to answer questions.

The Commission has taken several steps to prevent the disease, which strikes cervids (deer, elk and moose), from entering the state. A moratorium on live cervid importation began in 2002, and the importation of cervid carcasses was banned in 2005. Moratoriums on permits for commercial hunting resorts and breeder/dealer permits for cervid facilities were put in place in 2006. Capturing white-tailed deer by hand was banned in 2012.

According to the CWD Alliance, the disease was discovered among captive mule deer in Colorado in 1967, and has been detected in 24 other states and two Canadian provinces. Biologists believe a protein particle called a prion is transmitted through feces, urine and saliva, and can survive for years in soil and plants. CWD can have an incubation period of at least 16 months, which means infected animals may not show symptoms immediately.

CWD affects an animal’s nervous system. Prions transform normal cellular proteins into abnormal shapes that accumulate until neural cells cease to function. Infected animals begin to lose weight, lose their appetite and develop an insatiable thirst. They tend to separate from their herds, walk in repetitive patterns, carry their head low, salivate, urinate frequently and grind their teeth.

Visit ArkansasCWD.com for more information.

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The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will hold special public meetings during March to introduce proposed changes to management practices on many popular wildlife management areas for waterfowl habitat.

The meetings are part of the AGFC’s ongoing effort to keep the public informed about habitat degradation in many wetland areas, particularly artificially flooded bottomland hardwood forests known as greentree reservoirs that produce the finest duck hunting experience in the United States.

“Hunting on greentree reservoirs draws duck hunters from all over the country to The Natural State,” said Luke Naylor, waterfowl program coordinator for the AGFC. “But over decades, those forests have slowly changed, and our management must change with them if we are to continue this great tradition of hunting flooded timber and providing waterfowl with the habitat they need.”

Many hunters have become accustomed to constant high water being available near the opening day of waterfowl season, but according to growing scientific research in Arkansas and other states with greentree reservoirs, the practice has damaged many of the trees that produce the acorns ducks need.

“Flooding before a tree is dormant, and doing so consistently, causes damage,” Naylor said. “And most hunters will tell you there often are plenty of green leaves on the trees during the opening weekend of duck season. We need to begin managing our greentree reservoirs to follow more natural flooding patterns, which typically occur later and fluctuate from year to year.”

The AGFC also has produced a mailing, which describes the situation in detail. It will be delivered to each Arkansas resident who has purchased a waterfowl stamp in the last three years and each non-resident who has purchased a non-resident waterfowl WMA permit in the last three years. A digital version of that mailing is available at http://www.agfc.com/hunting/Documents/GTR.pdf.

“There has been a lot of talk lately about many other aspects of duck hunting on Arkansas’s famous public WMAs,” Naylor said. “But this change is much more important. This is to protect and re-establish the habitat that originally drew ducks to these areas. Without that, Arkansas’s famous green timber duck hunting could very well become a thing of the past.”

Public meetings will be held at the following dates and locations:

Stuttgart
6-8 p.m., March 9
Grand Prairie Center, Salon B
2807 Highway 165 South
Stuttgart, AR 72160

Searcy
6-8p.m., March 14
Searcy High School Cafeteria
301 N Ella,
Searcy, AR 72143

Little Rock
6-8 p.m., March 16
AGFC Headquarters Auditorium
2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock, AR 72205

Jonesboro
6-8 p.m., March 28
Nettleton High School Fine Arts Center
4201 Chieftan Lane
Jonesboro, AR 72401

Russellville
6-8 p.m., March 30
Doc Bryan Lecture Hall, Arkansas Tech University
1605 N. Coliseum Drive
Russellville, AR 72801

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Public meetings are scheduled throughout the state to discuss CWD and proposed regulations to combat the disease.

Public meetings are scheduled throughout the state to discuss CWD and proposed regulations to combat the disease.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists plan to deliver information about chronic wasting disease and proposed regulations changes to combat its spread at meetings throughout the state, beginning Thursday. All regulations proposals will be voted on at the June 16 Commission meeting.

In addition to 11 public meetings scheduled throughout the state on May 24 and 26, a special public meeting will be held Thursday, May 19, in Jasper to discuss the proposed regulations.

The AGFC also will host a special show on the Arkansas Education Television Network at 8 p.m., Monday, May 23. The show will include a panel of experts from the AGFC, Arkansas Department of Health and the University of Arkansas at Monticello. Viewers may submit comments and questions via phone at 1-800-662-2386, email at paffairs@aetn.org or on Twitter with #ARAsk.

CWD is a fatal disease that affects only deer, elk and other cervids. AGFC photo.

CWD is a fatal disease that affects only deer, elk and other cervids. AGFC photo.

The discovery of chronic wasting disease has been the hot topic in the Arkansas deer-hunting community since it was first found in the northwest portion of the state. Many questions about how deer and elk hunting in Arkansas will be affected have been asked, and many answers are left to be determined.

“The first step in our response was to gauge how prevalent the disease was in Arkansas,” said Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the AGFC. “Then we took on statewide sampling to find out how far the disease has spread. Now we’re ready to begin taking measures to combat the spread of the disease.”

Gray and the rest of the AGFC’s deer team have worked tirelessly since CWD was first reported in the state to gather as much information as possible from other states who have dealt with the disease.

“This doesn’t mean the end of deer hunting in Arkansas, and it’s not a panic-button situation, but it is serious and will change how we can manage our deer herd,” Gray said.

According to Gray, the ongoing statewide roadkill survey has identified CWD-positive deer in five counties: Newton, Boone, Madison, Pope and Carroll.

“The most recent addition was a deer found dead slightly over the border in Carroll County,” Gray said.

Through all phases of testing, 89 total animals have been found with CWD in Arkansas, 85 deer and four elk.

PUBLIC MEETING LOCATIONS

May 24, 6-8 p.m.

Nettleton Public School
Nettleton Performing Arts Center
4201 Chieftan Lane
Jonesboro

University of Arkansas at Monticello
Fine Arts Center
University Drive
Monticello

National Park College
Fredrick Dierks Center for Nursing and Health Sciences
Eisele Auditorium
101 College Drive
Hot Springs

Arkansas Tech University
Doc Bryan Student Services Center
1605 Coliseum Drive
Lecture Hall
Russellville

University of Arkansas
Pauline Whitaker Animal Science Center
1335 West Knapp
Fayetteville

AGFC Headquarters
2 Natural Resources Drive
Little Rock
May 26, 6-8 p.m.
Camden Fairview High School
Little Theater Auditorium
1750 Cash Road
Camden

Brinkley Convention Center
1501 Weatherby Drive
Brinkley

Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center
8300 Wells Lake Road
Fort Smith

Hope Fair Park Community Center
800 South Mockingbird Lane
Hope

Mountain Home High School
Dunbar Auditorium
500 Bomber Boulevard
Mountain Home

20160511_CWD Public Meetings_HR

 

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Chronic wasting disease, a fatal neurological disease found in deer, elk, moose and other members of the deer family, was confirmed in a sample from Arkansas Feb. 23. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is ramping up awareness for the disease and its response to the finding through public meetings, press releases and many other avenues of communication. Visit to learn more about the disease in Arkansas.

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Freezer full? Donate a deer to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry.

Learn how the AGFC and Arkansas hunters are making a difference in their communities.

Learn how the AGFC and Arkansas hunters are making a difference in their communities.

Arkansas deer hunters have provided millions of servings of protein to needy families across Arkansas. Learn how you can help the AGFC and Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry keep food banks throughout The Natural State stocked with venison during the holiday season.

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