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story.lead_photo.caption Bob Sexton retrieves one of the white-fronted geese he shot Wednesday while hunting near Carlisle. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Bryan Hendricks)

Deer and duck hunting are two of the sports that Arkansans most look forward to each year. Even in a pandemic, hunters are flocking to the flooded fields and woods to take advantage of some of the best duck and deer hunting the country has to offer.

Last weekend hunters, from amateurs to experienced, headed into the woods in hopes of bagging a trophy buck, and this weekend the sounds of duck calls will fill the air.

Keith Stephens, chief of communications for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said in a previous interview that about 500,000 licensed hunters typically take part in opening day of modern gun deer season, a number that includes those younger than 16 and people older than 65.

According to the 2019-20 white-tailed deer report, 188,151 deer were harvested in 2019, with 113,923 of those harvested in November with a modern gun. That is the first time since 2011 that Arkansas deer hunters did not reach the 200,000 mark. Jefferson County's zone harvested 8,716 deer in the 2019-20 season.

Last season, the duck harvest increased slightly from the previous season, with an estimated 509,879 mallards taken last season. No other state had a harvest of over 200,000 mallards. Arkansas hunters took 35% of all mallards harvested in the Mississippi Flyway and 17% of all mallards taken in the U.S.

As hunters make way to their favorite spots, the Game and Fish Commission offers reminders on the guidelines and rules that must be followed.

The statewide bag limit is six deer, of which no more than two may be bucks. The statewide seasonal bag limit may be taken in any combination of zones or methods, as long as zone bag limits are not exceeded. Hunters who are 6 to 15 years old may harvest any buck without regard to antler size or points.

Zone 9 bag limit

Four deer, no more than two bucks, which may include:

• Two bucks with archery, muzzleloader or modern gun;

• Four does with archery;

• Two does with muzzleloader and modern gun combined.

Special regulations

• No dogs allowed for deer hunting. Up to two dogs may be used to blood trail wounded deer.

• No antler point restrictions on harvest within the chronic-wasting disease counties. All other counties within this zone, legal bucks must be button bucks or have at least three points on one side of the rack.

• Button bucks do count toward the buck limit in this zone.

• On Bald Knob, Big Lake, Cache River, Felsenthal, Holla Bend, Overflow, Pond Creek, Wapanocca and White River National Wildlife Refuges; Rex Hancock Black Swamp and UA Pine Tree Experimental Station Wildlife Management Areas, any buck deer may be legally harvested during all deer hunts.

• In the Greers Ferry Lake management area, any buck may be legally harvested during the deer muzzleloader mobility-impaired permit hunt.

• In Hobbs State Park Conservation Area, the Nimrod Lloyd Millwood area and Johnson County refuge in the Dardanelle area any buck may be legally harvested during the deer modern gun mobility-impaired hunt.

Modern Gun

Modern guns may be used for deer except:

• buckshot in a .410 shotgun.

• shot smaller than No. 4 buckshot in any shotgun.

• rimfire cartridges, military or full metal jacketed ammunition.

• centerfire rifles or handguns smaller than .22 caliber.

handguns with barrels shorter than 4 inches.

• Hunting Equipment Legal by Season

• Modern guns, muzzleloaders or archery equipment may be used during modern gun seasons.

• Hunters can carry only muzzleloaders and archery equipment during muzzleloader deer or bear seasons.

• Hunters can carry only archery equipment during archery deer and bear seasons.

• Hunters can use air rifles on small game.

• Firearms can be carried in Wildlife Management Areas, but can't be used for any hunting purpose unless the weapon is legal for that season.

• Hunters and those accompanying hunters in areas where modern gun or muzzleloader deer, bear or elk seasons are open must wear at least 400 square inches of hunter orange, chartreuse or blaze camouflage above the waist and a head garment of those same safety colors. Safety colors are not required for migratory-bird hunters in these areas.

Duck hunting

Duck daily bag limit – six, which may include no more than four mallards (two hens), one scaup, three wood ducks, one pintail, two redheads, two canvasbacks, two black ducks, one mottled duck. If not listed, up to six ducks of a species (including teal) may be taken.

Duck hunting ends at noon. Shooting is allowed from 30 minutes before sunrise and ends at noon. Waterfowl hunters on Wildlife Management Area must cease all shooting at noon from Nov. 21- Jan. 30.

On Dec. 5 and Feb. 6 hunters 15 and younger, members of active duty military and military veterans can take ducks, geese, coots and mergansers.

Young hunters who have completed an education course may hunt on their own. A mentor 21 or older must accompany youngsters who have not completed a hunter education course. Mentors cannot hunt, but can call waterfowl.

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