A new deer hunting season is coming this fall for about two-thirds of Arkansas.
It is causing a double-take among some hunters, and yes, there will be some disagreement.
Too many deer in some areas, say the biologists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The buck-doe ratio is out of whack with far too many does for the number of bucks, say the biologists with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
One strategy toward getting this ratio nearer desired levels is a doe-only modern gun hunting season.
It is designated for Oct. 31 through Nov. 4. That’s Monday through Friday.
All right, there will be fussing on that point from hunters who say they have to work on weekdays and can only hunt on weekends. One point for the thinking of the AGFC people who set the hunting seasons is that it is best to go a little conservative when instituting hunts. This new hunt is labeled modern gun, but this means hunters can use lesser weapons — archery, crossbows and muzzleloaders — if they choose.
Richard Baxter is the deer program coordinator for the Game and Fish Commission. He said, “The rationale behind the hunt is simple. In many areas of the state, we have very high deer densities, and we need to try to reduce deer numbers. By providing hunters with doe-only days, hunters that participate will not have the option to wait on a buck, which is why many hunters pass up opportunities at doe during the regular modern gun and muzzleloader hunts.”
The new doe-only hunt is for Deer Zones 6A, 8A, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 16A and 17. This basically is south Arkansas, some of central Arkansas and a bit of north-central Arkansas. Deer Zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 5A, 5B, 6, 7, 8 and 11 will be closed. The bag limit on this special doe hunt is the zone limit.
Any doe taken by a hunter in this new season will count toward his or her season bag limit, both zone and statewide. There is a generous six-deer statewide limit for next season. Most zone limits are less than six, but a hunter can take deer in more than one zone up to the statewide limit of six.
A negative to this strategy of taking out some of the does from the Arkansas herd is the old mindset that it’s a sin to kill a doe. “I only hunt bucks” is a comment you’ll hear at most gatherings, even corner store conservations, of deer hunters. Sometimes the comment will be along the line of “I know they need to kill some does, but I only hunt bucks. The kids can kill the does.”
The doe-only rule, along with one specifying taking a doe before taking a buck, has been used by private hunting clubs in Arkansas with success where there is a need to reduce herd numbers.
Baxter said, “We have allowed DMAP (Deer Management Assistance Program) clubs to harvest does early in the season for years. This is a sound management practice because we are able to lower the standing crop before hunting season, thereby providing remaining deer with better resources to keep them in better shape heading into the rut and post-rut periods.
“Additionally, removing doe early in the season can also help to reduce the amount of unnecessary energy expenditures that bucks may have. Less doe on the landscape will ensure that there is a more defined rut and that more doe are bred by older age-class bucks.”
The upcoming deer seasons:
Archery — All zones: Oct. 1-Feb. 29.
Muzzleloader — Zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 4A, 5A, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 10, 11, 14 and 15: Oct. 22-30 and Dec. 17-19. Zones 9, 12, 13, 16, 16A and 17: Oct. 22-30 and Dec. 29-31. Zones 4, 4B, 5 and 5B: Closed.
Modern Gun — Zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 10 and 11: Nov. 12-Dec. 4. Zone 4: Nov. 12-13. Zone 5: Nov. 12-13 and Nov. 19-20. Zones 4A, 5A, 14 and 15: Nov. 12-Dec. 11. Zones 4B and 5B: Nov. 12-20. Zones 9, 12 and 13: Nov. 12-Dec. 18. Zone 16, 16A and 17: Nov. 12-Dec. 25.
Modern gun doe only: Zones 6A, 8A, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 16A and 17: Oct. 31-Nov. 4. Zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 4B, 5, 5A, 5B, 6, 7, 8 and 11: Closed.
The statewide Christmas holiday modern gun deer hunt is Dec. 26-28.
Youth hunts are Nov. 5-6 and Jan. 7-8.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.