With a month and a half left in deer season for archery hunters, Arkansas’s deer harvest already topped the 200,000-mark at the conclusion of the second modern gun youth hunt held Jan. 6-7.
This is the sixth straight year Arkansas hunters have reached this milestone.
Arkansas record harvest came in 2012, when hunters harvested 213,487 deer. Although this year’s harvest likely will fall short of that number, the season is fairly consistent with last year’s total harvest of 202,070.
Ralph Meeker, deer program coordinator, says the consistent harvest numbers from recent years are a good indication that Arkansas deer populations are beginning to stabilize.
“Balancing and stabilizing the state’s deer population are two of the goals of the Strategic Deer Management Plan,” Meeker said. “We want to balance the deer herd with the available habitat and the people who live in Arkansas. We’ve seen good growth for the last few decades, and now it’s time to maintain our deer where they are abundant for hunters, but not so much that they outgrow their habitat or people’s tolerance of them throughout the year.”
Meeker says one noticeable bright spot in this year’s season is the amount of deer being checked from Zone 12. Last year saw a noticeable decrease in harvest, particularly does, in that zone.
“So far, we’re back to similar harvests from the four or five years prior to last,” Meeker said.
Meeker says he’s also seen pictures of some impressive deer and heard about many more trophy-size bucks being taken this year than usual throughout the state.
“Last fall we had a great mast crop in much of the state, followed by a wet spring and early summer that allowed for good growth of natural vegetation. That combination provides a lot of good nutrition for developing antlers and weight gain,” Meeker said. “It will be interesting to see what comes in at this year’s Big Buck Classic.”