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Mosby: Deer numbers keep going up

Posted: December 7, 2013 - 3:34pm

We have a lot of deer. Arkansas has a lot of deer, and the United States has a lot of deer.

And Faulkner County has a lot of deer judging by the numbers that have been checked by hunters this season.

The Faulkner total is over 1,800 deer with quite a bit of hunting still to go although the main event, modern gun season, is finished except for the three days after Christmas that are still to come.

A friend passed along the current issue of Time magazine, and on the cover with the headline “America’s Pest Problem” with a subhead of “Why the rules of hunting are about to change.” The cover photo is of a doe deer.

Deer are pests?

Yes, to some people and in some places. And at some times.

Most wildlife managers in Arkansas — landowners, hunting clubs and biologists — say the increased numbers taken by hunters is nothing to worry about and can even be more, quite a bit more.

We have over a million deer in the state, according to Arkansas Game and Fish Commission estimates. Last year 213,487 chosen were checked by hunters, and this year appears to be running close to that previous year. The meaning is about a fifth of Arkansas deer are taken by hunters in addition to quite a few thousand that are killed on highways, roads and even streets. And, yes, some hunters cheat by killing deer and not checking them.

One veteran biologist commented that a fourth of the state’s deer herd could fall to hunters without threat of the overall numbers. Deer are reproducing faster than hunters can shoot them.

One factor that is encouraging to wildlife managers is that the buck-doe ratio of deer in Arkansas is moving closer to the ideal of 50-50.

One male deer is born to each one female deer, in general. For ages, we have viewed the buck deer as the preferred target. Today, there is a sizeable segment of Arkansas hunters who steadfastly will not shoot a doe. Many say something like, “I know we need to kill some does, but I won’t do it. Let the kids shoot the does. Let the beginners shoot the does.”

The statistics of deer checked by hunters this season have some interesting aspects.

Hunters in south Arkansas, where deer numbers are traditionally the largest, are killing more does than they are bucks. Over the rest of the state, it is more bucks checked than does, sometimes a lot more bucks than does.

For example, in Calhoun Count to date, 2,055 does and 1,901 bucks, adults and buttons, have been checked. In Faulkner County, 828 does and 1.016 bucks have been checked.

Zone limits are a partial reason here.

Hunters can take six deer, no more than two bucks, for the season in Calhoun but only four deer, no more than two bucks, in Faulkner. Most hunters go for bucks first.

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