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The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission's updated Deer Management Strategic Plan reveals some interesting information.

Policy wise, the plan is comprehensive. It outlines six goals with accompanying objectives and achievement strategies to manage a resource that means so much to Arkansas sportsmen.

Aside from the wonkish stuff, the plan is a mother lode of information about the microdynamics of the state's deer herd on a regional basis but also on a zone-by-zone basis.

For example, peak conception dates for deer in all or most of 56 counties, including all of central Arkansas, are from Nov. 12-21. In most of the Mississippi Delta, they are Nov. 22-Dec. 1.

In Chicot County, almost all of Phillips and Desha counties, half of Ashley and Lee counties and small portions of Arkansas, Crittenden, St. Francis, Drew and Monroe counties, peak conception dates are Dec. 2-14.

From data collected from 2002-15, we also learn that young does do not produce as many fawns in a season as do 21/2-year-old does. During that time, 139 does aged 11/2 years averaged 1.22 fawns. The highest average -- 1.5 fawns -- was in the Ozarks. The lowest average -- 1.0 -- was on Crowley's Ridge, although that sample contained only four deer over a 13-year period.

The sample of 1,269 was much higher for 21/2-year-old does. Their average reproduction was 1.7 fawns, but fawn rates were remarkably consistent across the state's six major regions. With 1.9 fawns, 106 does at Crowley's Ridge had the highest average reproduction. The Ouachita Mountains, Gulf Coastal Plain and the Mississippi Alluvial Valley had the lowest with 1.7.

The average age of bucks killed by hunters has changed considerably since 1999, and the trend coincides with the implementation of the 3-point rule in 1998.

In 1984, hunters killed more than 50,000 bucks. About 75% were 11/2 years old or younger. About 20% were 21/2 years old. The remaining 5% were 31/2 years old

In 2014, hunters killed about 110,000 bucks, of which only about 15% were 11/2 years old or younger. All the other age classes were prominent and well distributed. Only about 23% of bucks killed that year were 21/2 years old, but about 27% were 31/2 years. About 17% were 41/2 years, and about 13% were at least 51/2 years old.

In 2017, about 25% of bucks were 51/2 years old. That percentage increased rapidly after 2008, and that is why Arkansas is now known as a top deer hunting state.

I hate to see wild places ruined, but the overwhelming majority of our state's area comprises suitable deer habitat.

The Ozark Mountains Deer Management Unit contains deer zones 1, 1A, 2, 3, 6 and 6A. Despite the growth of Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and their neighboring communities, this area contains 7,565,831 acres of suitable deer habitat, accounting for 92% of the total acreage.

The West Gulf Coastal Plain Deer Management Unit contains 7,469,106 acres of suitable deer habitat in deer zones 12, 14 and 15. Zone 12, with 6,957,874 acres, is the largest.

From 2009-18, the Game and Fish Commission recorded data from 2,192 bucks in Zone 12. The average live weight of a 21/2-year-old buck was 138 pounds. The average number of antler points was 7.2. The average inside spread was 12 inches, and the average main beam length was 14 inches. The average main beam circumference was 3.1 inches, and the average Boone and Crockett score was 83.

Also sampled during that time were 3,059 bucks that were 31/2 years old. The average live weight was 151 pounds, and the average number of points was 7.9. The average inside spread was 13.7 inches, and the average main beam length was 19 inches. The average main beam circumference was 3.6 inches, and the average B&C score was 99.1.

The Arkansas River Valley Deer Management Unit contains Zones 7 (1.41 million acres), Zone 8 (836,502 acres) and Zone 8A (853,067 acres). The habitat percentage is 86, 89 and 85%, respectively.

From 2009-18, the average weight of 21/2- and 31/2-year-old bucks was 134 pounds and 153 pounds, respectively. The average number of points was 8 and 9.1, and the average inside spread was 13.2 and 15.6 inches. The average main beam length was 14.5 inches and 17.3 inches, and the average B&C scores were 89.1 and 111.

There is much, much more. We'll examine the rest of the state in coming editions.

Sports on 11/24/2019

Print Headline: Deer management data tells encouraging story

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