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Arkansas's urban bowhunts have started, giving some archery hunters an almost one-month head start before the regular archery deer season begins.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission created urban bowhunts for deer in cooperation with cities and bowhunting groups to help control growing deer populations near residential areas.

To participate in the urban hunt, a person must be at least 16 years old and have a valid Arkansas sportsman hunting license. They must also complete the following tasks provided required by the Arkansas Bowhunters Association.

• Complete the International Bowhunter Education Course and Field Day.

• Take an urban hunt orientation.

• Pass a proficiency test by shooting three consecutive arrows in the kill zone.

Source: Arkansas Game & Fish Commission

Deer present in large quantities can create a strain on the environment by diminishing the natural food supply. They also cause damage to property, particularly when they choose to browse in people's gardens and flowerbeds. They also can create hazardous situations for themselves and humans when crowded into close conditions.

Carrie Crawford is a Game and Fish employee and former secretary of the Arkansas Bowhunters Association. She has helped organize hunter orientations at urban bowhunts and has participated in the hunts for the last few years.

The biggest threat from too many deer is collisions with motor vehicles, which can injure or kill drivers. Allowing archers to harvest deer is a beneficial way to decrease their numbers in those neighborhoods.

Urban hunts also benefit families in need. Hunters involved in urban bowhunts must donate their first deer to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry, which distributes the meat to food pantries in the counties where the deer were harvested. In the 2015-2016 season, hunters donated 436 deer, providing more than 52,600 meals to families in need.

Hunting near populated areas requires organizers to ensure the utmost precautions are met. Many towns require hunters to be in an elevated stand, so that any errant shot is contained within a few feet of its intended target.

Shooting a bow is also more discrete than firing a gun and will not disturb the surrounding homes. Most people within the involved cities are accepting of hunters and rarely notice their presence.

The appeal of this unconventional hunt is the access to areas where deer have never been pressured. A sportsman must be skillful in using a bow to qualify for the opportunity to participate in the hunt.

Sports on 09/06/2016

Print Headline: Urban bowhunts put dent in deer numbers

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