Dec. 9, 2020
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
Arkansans looking for one last chance to bag a deer at the end of the season this year will have three additional days to take a doe after the Modern Gun Christmas Holiday Hunt to fill their tag. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission unanimously voted in May to move the Private Land Antlerless Only Deer Hunt from the middle of October to the last days of December in hopes to increase participation in the hunt.
Established in 2012, the hunt has seen limited participation throughout the state. The move to the cool weather of the late season is an effort to increase doe harvest — the initial reason for the hunt’s creation.
“The Private Land Antlerless Only Hunt was established to help balance buck-to-doe ratios by encouraging the harvest of does before the regular season began,” Meeker said. “The hope was also to increase the opportunity for hunters to see a more intense rutting period and have a better opportunity to harvest mature bucks.”
Meeker explained that in an area where female deer greatly outnumber male deer, there is much less competition among the bucks for breeding. In such cases, bucks have a greater time frame to breed. When the number of bucks is more balanced with the number of does, rutting activity level increases.
The early season also was an attempt to protect more button bucks, as many of these yearlings would still be with the does and hunters would easily be able to differentiate the smaller button buck from the older doe and choose the latter.
Unfortunately, deer hunters in Arkansas have shown a definite preference for harvesting does later in the season. Based on several comments received, Meeker also noted that hunters would prefer less disturbance and pressure on deer prior to the October muzzleloader hunt and the statewide opening of modern gun deer season.
“From analyzing the harvest and biological data we collect, we saw no positive trends in either the reduction of button bucks harvested or a larger percentage of older age-classed bucks in the harvest,” Meeker said. “When you take into account that the average hunter only harvests one deer per year and approximately 70 percent of the does harvested are still taken on or after the peak of the rut, you ultimately have to realize that the most important aspects of the hunt are to balance the sex ratio and to balance deer populations with the available habitat. We are hoping the move to the later season will accomplish both of these more efficiently.”
Meeker says the move to the end of the calendar year also enables more families to enjoy the hunt at a time when youth and college-aged students are out of classes and many people are already visiting family for the holiday season.
“The Christmas gun hunt will still take place Dec. 26-28, but this will add a few additional doe-only days to fill a tag,” Meeker said. “This gives nearly a full week of hunting for families and friends to enjoy with each other.”