Deer, the favorite game animal and target for hundreds of thousands Arkansans, can be a nuisance and a danger for motorists, especially in municipalities. Several Arkansas communities have turned to limited and tightly controlled hunting as a means to reduce the numbers of deer on their city limits.
Urban deer hunts, they are called, and the procedures are within parameters of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
A factor in this deer-in-town issue are the residents who actually want them there, enjoy seeing them close at hand and even feed them.
"Don’t kill my deer" is a common reaction city officials hear when they discuss cutting down the number of deer in there populated areas. Local brouhahas erupt.
Eight Arkansas towns will have deer hunts within their boundaries this fall and winter. Fairfield Bay, Heber Springs, Lakeview, Bull Shoals, Horseshoe Bend, Cherokee Village and Russellville have deer hunts lined up in conjunction with AGFC and the Arkansas Bowhunters Association.
The eighth town is doing it a little differently, and you may guess that it is Eureka Springs, an Arkansas icon that marches to its own beat.
All urban deer hunts will open Sept. 1 and close Jan. 31 All hunting is archery-only, and this means longbows, recurve bows and compound bows. Crossbows are not allowed.
Why bows and not guns? Safety, primarily. Bows do not shoot as far as modern rifles and shotguns, and not as far as muzzle-loaders. Bows are quiet, too. Neighbors aren’t likely to be disturbed by a nearly silent "twang" as they are a loud "bang."
Urban deer hunts have been going on in Arkansas for several years now, and the results have been moderately encouraging at best. Deer have been taken by the in-town hunters but not to the extent the city leaders and the Game and Fish Commission would like.
By restricting the hunts to bow shooters, the field of potential hunters is sharply reduced. Not everyone can shoot a bow effectively. In addition, the hunters on seven of those eight communities must go through some rather rigorous qualifications before being allowed to hunt. Eureka Springs, holding a hunt for the first time this coming season, won’t require everything the other towns do but will follow most of the procedures.
The urban archers will have further restrictions involving where and how they hunt. They must:
—Hunt in designated areas, and if hunting on private property, hunters must possess written permission from the property owner.
—Hunt at least 50 yards from designated trails and parks.
—Hunt at least 50 yards from any occupied dwelling without written permission.
—Keep all bows cased when going to and from stands.
—Shoot only from stands at least 10 feet above the ground (no ground blinds).
—Cover harvested animals from sight before transporting/moving from the field.
—Remove harvested animals during daylight hours if at all possible. Donate first deer to Arkansas Hunters Feeding the Hungry.
The required bowhunting education classes are coming up July 14 and 15 at Lake Dardanelle State Park and July 21 at Fairfield Bay. Eureka Springs won’t require this, nor it will require the $50 membership fee of the Arkansas Bowhunters Association. But Eureka will require a shooting proficiency test.
Hunters can go to agfc.com for more information and to apply for the urban deer hunts.
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.