Hunt for deer begins in state

Hunters take to the woods for modern gun main event

Posted: November 11, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.

Nearly half a million hunters will be in the woods and fields of Arkansas today for the opening of the modern gun deer season.

Although Arkansas is famous for its world-class duck hunting, opening weekend of the modern gun deer season is our state's biggest event in terms of participation.

Modern Gun Deer Season

SEASON DATES Nov. 11-Dec. 3: Zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 10 and 11

Nov. 11-Dec. 10: Zones 4A, 5A, 14, 15

Nov. 11-Dec. 25: Zones 16, 16A, 17

Nov. 11-Dec. 17: Zones 9, 12, 13

Nov. 11-19: Zones 4B, 5B

Nov. 11-12: Zone 4

Nov. 11-12, Nov. 18-19: Zone 5

BAG LIMIT Varies by zone. Hunters may kill as many as six deer, but no more than two legal bucks.

SHOOTING HOURS 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.

GAME CHECK Hunters can check deer by calling (877) 507-4263, going online at agfc.com, or with the AGFC’s smartphone application.

DON’T FORGET Hunters are required to wear a fluorescent cap and vest or jacket, and they must possess a proper hunting license and tags. Hunters also should carry an ink pen and a rubber band, length of wire or zip tie so they can fill out their tag and attach it to their deer before transporting. Hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1969, must be hunter-education certified.

FUN FACTS

• Arkansas hunters kill an average of 1 deer per person annually.

• 53 percent of hunters actually kill a deer.

• Since 2013, the AGFC has offered certificates for hunters who kill their first deer. You can paste a photo into the certificate document online and print a certificate worthy of framing.

• Hunters can help feed less fortunate Arkansans by donating a deer to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry (arkansashunters.org).

Keith Stephens, assistant chief of communications for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said about 300,000 licensed hunters will take part in opening day. If you include youths younger than age 16 and seniors over age 65, he said the number is closer to 500,000.

"It's a huge thing," Stephens said. "It's a tradition that dates back a long time before me. There's football season, and there's deer season. Everybody in Arkansas looks forward to both."

Ralph Meeker, the AGFC deer project leader, said opening weekend of modern gun deer season is a vital piece of Arkansas culture.

"It's bigger than a 12-0 football season," Meeker said. "Deer and deer hunting -- or any kind of outdoor pursuit, for that matter -- is a part of our heritage in Arkansas."

Because deer seasons last so long, the enthusiasm among hunters isn't as intense as it was a generation ago, but it still runs deep, Meeker said.

"When my dad was a kid, he said everybody took off the Monday after opening day," Meeker said. "I suspect a lot of kids still miss the Friday before and the Monday after opening day. Not many schools have 'deer days' anymore. They call it fall break now. I suspect they strategically schedule those teacher workshops."

Modern gun season is also when hunters kill the biggest majority of the deer for the season.

Of the 202,070 deer that hunters reported killing in the 2016-2017 deer seasons, about 70 percent were killed during the modern gun season, Meeker said. Of those, he said 35,000-40,000 were killed during the opening weekend, more than any other weekend.

Arkansas schedules its modern gun deer season to coincide roughly with the rut, or the whitetailed deer's breeding period. The peak of the rut varies across the state, but by mid-November rutting activity should be occurring in all parts of the state, Meeker said.

As it did last season, the AGFC will sample large numbers of deer killed in the Ozarks for chronic wasting disease, a fatal, communicable disease to deer that was discovered in February 2016 in Newton County. Meeker said the AGFC will staff 17 stations in the 10-county chronic wasting disease zone. Meeker encourages hunters to bring their deer to the stations for sampling.

A number of taxidermists and veterinarians also have volunteered to take CWD samples separately from the sampling stations.

Detailed information about chronic wasting disease in Arkansas is available online at arkansascwd.com. The site also lists CWD testing locations, as well as veterinarians and taxidermists who are participating in the sampling effort.

For those who don't hunt private land, Arkansas offers more than 3 million acres of public hunting in the Ozark and Ouachita national forests. About 25 percent of Arkansas' deer hunters pursue their game on public land.

Deer hunters are required to wear a fluorescent cap and vest or jacket during the modern gun season. They also must possess a hunting license and proper tags and should carry an ink pen and a rubber band, length of wire or zip tie so they can fill out their tag and attach it to their deer before transporting it.

Successful hunters can check deer using a smartphone with the AGFC's game check application online at agfc.com, or by calling (877) 507-4263.

Sports on 11/11/2017