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Deer hunting regulations shouldn't change much next season after chronic wasting disease was found in deer killed in Benton, Washington and Sebastian counties.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confirmed the disease was found in two does taken in Benton County, one near Decatur and the other near Springtown. A buck shot near Prairie Grove in Washington County had CWD. The disease was found in another buck harvested near Lavaca in Sebastian County.

All were killed by hunters during the 2017-2018 deer season. Game and Fish sends tissue samples from deer to the Wisconsin Veterinary Laboratory in Madison. The lab found CWD in those four deer.

The disease is fatal to deer and elk that are infected. CWD poses no risk to people, health professionals say.

Much of Northwest Arkansas is in deer zone 1, which takes in all of Benton County and the north half of Washington County.

Mark Hutchings, a Game and Fish wildlife biologist who works in Northwest Arkansas, said daily bag limits and other regulations for the zone will likely be the same next season.

The season limit in zone 1, as well as nearby zone 2, east of zone 1, is five deer. A sixth deer may be taken if it's killed outside of zones 1 and 2. The three-point rule for bucks has been removed. Button bucks no longer count toward a hunter's two-buck season limit.

Game and Fish raised the bag limit and removed the three-point rule after CWD was first confirmed in Arkansas two years ago.

The deer limit in zone 1A may increase next season, Hutchings said. Right now the zone limit is four deer. The zone takes in much of south Washington County and western Crawford County and a sliver of northwest Sebastian County.

Modern gun and muzzle-loader seasons are over now. Archery deer season is open and runs through Feb. 28. The new CWD confirmations won't affect the rest of archery season, Hutchings said.

Game and Fish has already set opening days for next season. Archery opens Sept. 22, muzzle-loader on Oct. 20 and modern gun on Nov. 10.

The silver lining to the CWD cloud is that hunters will be able to transport whole deer from the 11-county CWD zone into Benton, Washington and Sebastian counties. That is, if those three counties are added to the CWD management zone. Current regulations allow hunters to transport only deboned meat, not a whole deer carcass, out of the CWD management zone.

That could be good news for Benton, Washington and Sebastian county residents who have hunting land in Madison, Carroll, Newton and other counties in the CWD zone. Deboning, or taking all the venison off a deer carcass, is a lot of work.

CWD regulations say hunters can't take any bone material out of the CWD zone.

If the three counties are added to the CWD management zone, residents of Benton, Washington and Sebastian counties may no longer be allowed to feed deer. Some people put mechanical feeders in their yards, which is legal, because they enjoy seeing deer near their homes.

Feeding deer is a bad idea anytime, Hutchings said. It concentrates deer and makes them more likely to catch disease, like CWD, from other deer.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fputthoff@nwadg.com or Twitter @NWAFlip

Sports on 01/16/2018

Print Headline: Disease's spread shouldn't change deer hunting

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