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Rules set for deer stands on public land

by ArKansas Game and Fish | November 17, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.
In wilderness areas undisturbed by humans and development, white-tailed deer often grow old and reach large sizes.

Few pieces of equipment represent the white-tailed deer hunting experience as a tree stand.

When scouting places to hunt on public land, most hunters are looking for a place to hang a stand in a tree to give them an advantage over their target.

For hunters on private land, stands may sit for years and include so many modern comforts they resemble a child’s dream tree house.

“According to Arkansas law, you may not leave anything out overnight on a wildlife management area, except blinds, trail cameras and tree stands,” said Garrick Dugger, assistant chief of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Wildlife Management Division.

Tree stands and pop-up blinds on wildlife management areas must be moved at least 200 yards every seven days. They must have the owner’s name and address on them.

If a stand does remain in an area for more than seven days, it’s best not to hunt from it or remove it yourself. Instead, call your local wildlife officer or the area headquarters to notify them of the violation.

“Be sure to include the GPS coordinates where the stand is or a good description of the location,” Dugger said. “We’ll contact the owner or remove the stand. It doesn’t matter if it’s on public land. If it isn’t yours, it’s not right to take it.”

Safety while in the stand should be a top priority. No one should get in any tree stand on public or private property without wearing a full-body safety harness that’s in good working order. The vast majority of accidents and fatalities that occur during hunting season are the result of a fall from a tree stand.

“Most stands come with a full-body harness from the store, and there are plenty of comfortably designed harnesses available on their own for a reasonable price,” Dugger said. “It’s just like a seatbelt in a car or a life vest in a boat. It doesn’t work if you don’t wear it.”

Safety also should be a priority for hunters who elect to use a ground blind. On public land, ground blinds must have some form of hunter orange visible from all sides of the blind to alert other hunters of its location.

Hunters should still wear their hunter orange vests and hats any time they are in the woods. Many hunting accidents over the years have occurred just after a hunter shot at a deer and exited his blind or stand but failed to wear hunter orange during the excitement.

Hunters also should note cutting branches to create shooting lanes or make room for a tree stand also is prohibited. While a hunter can twist off a few small twigs and branches to fit his stand against the tree properly, the only cutting device allowed while hunting on a wildlife management area is a hunting knife for field-dressing and skinning game.

“You can gather some dead and downed limbs to form a ground blind or use a fallen treetop as a blind if you find one close to the area you want to hunt,” Dugger said. “A dead treetop in the right place can be one of the best blinds you will find, and you only need to bring a chair or a bucket to the woods with you to sit on and be comfortable.”

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