Nearly 500,000 hunters will be in the woods and fields of Arkansas today for the opening day of the modern gun deer season.
Although Arkansas is famous for its world-class duck hunting, opening weekend of the modern gun deer season is the state's biggest event in terms of participation. Some rural schools close Monday for the opening of the season.
Modern Gun Deer Season
SEASON DATES Today-Dec. 4: Zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 6, 6A, 7, 8, 8A, 10 and 11.
Today-Dec. 11: Zones 4A, 5A, 14, 15.
Today-Dec. 25: Zone 16, 16A, 17.
Today-Dec. 18: Zone 9, 12, 13.
Today-Nov. 20: Zones 4B, 5B.
Today-Sunday: Zone 4.
Today-Sunday: Zone 5
BAG LIMIT Varies by zone. Hunters may kill as many as six deer, but no more than two legal bucks.
SHOOTING HOURS 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.
GAME CHECK Hunters can check deer by calling (877) 507-4263, going online at agfc.com, or with the AGFC’s smart phone application.
DON’T FORGET Hunters are required to wear a fluorescent cap and vest or jacket and must possess a proper hunting license and tags. Hunters also should carry an ink pen and a rubber band, length of wire or zip tie so they can fill out their tag and attach it to their deer before transporting. Hunters born on or after Jan. 1, 1969, must be hunter education certified.
• Arkansas hunters kill an average of 1 deer per person annually
• 53 percent of hunters actually kill a deer
• Since 2013, the AGFC has offered certificates for hunters who kill their first deer. You can paste a photo into the certificate document online and print a certificate worthy of framing.
• Hunters can help feed less fortunate Arkansans by donating a deer to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry (AHFC.org)
Keith Stephens, assistant chief of communications for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said about 300,000 licensed hunters will take part in opening day. If youths younger than 16 and seniors over 65 are included, he said the number is actually closer to 500,000.
"It's a huge thing," Stephens said. "It's a tradition that dates back a long time before me. There's football season, and there's deer season. Everybody in Arkansas looks forward to both."
Cory Gray, the Game and fish Commission's deer project leader, said the opening weekend of modern gun deer season is about camaraderie as much as it is hunting.
"It's a huge event. It has been my whole life," Gray said. "It is a time when families come together at deer camp and enjoy being around friends you haven't seen all year long."
Modern gun season also is when hunters kill the biggest majority of the deer of the season.
Of the 212,938 deer that hunters reported killing in the 2015-2016 deer season, nearly 70 percent were killed during the modern gun portion. Of those, 37,319 were killed during the opening weekend, more than any other weekend, and nearly 42,000 were killed in the first three days.
Arkansas schedules its modern gun deer season to coincide roughly with the rut, or the whitetailed deer's breeding period. The peak of the rut varies across the state, but by mid-November rutting activity should be occurring in all parts of the state, Gray said.
This season, the AGFC will sample large numbers of deer killed in the Ozarks for chronic wasting disease, a fatal, communicable disease to deer that was discovered in February in Newton County. Gray said that the AGFC will establish 25 stations in the 10-county chronic wasting disease zone. Gray said he encourages hunters to bring their deer to the stations for sampling.
"Our intent is collect at least 300 samples in each of those counties," Gray said. "We've got 130 employees coming in from around the state to work them. We want to have some confidence where this disease is within those 10 counties and where it isn't."
Detailed information about chronic wasting disease in Arkansas can be found on Page 6 of the Game and Fish Commission's Hunting Guidebook.
For those who don't hunt private land, Arkansas offers more than 3 million acres of public hunting in the Ozark and Ouachita national forests. About 25 percent of Arkansas' deer hunters pursue their game on public land.
Deer hunters are required to wear a fluorescent cap and vest or jacket during the modern gun season. They also must possess a hunting license and proper tags and should carry an ink pen and a rubber band, length of wire or zip tie so they can fill out their tag and attach it to their deer before transporting it.
Successful hunters can check deer using a smart phone with the AGFC's game check application, online at agfc.com, or by calling (877) 507-4263.
Sports on 11/12/2016