Harvest limit and the surrounding habitat in Arkansas is providing a perfect area for a sustainable deer population.
Larry Aggus of Fayetteville, Arkansas remembers the day when you could make the evening news by simply seeing a deer, let alone actually harvesting one.
As the owner of the Southtown Sporting Goods store and a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, he has seen the northwest Arkansas deer population fluctuate over the years.
Before 1944, there was no limit to how many deer a hunter could harvest. Because of that, the deer population suffered and in 1930 there were only about 1,000 deer left in the area.
It took decades for the population to recover. Only recently has the deer population started to boom. In Washington County in 2005, “less than one-third as many deer a year as any one of several south Arkansas counties.”
The number of deer harvested grew a year later from 1,423 to 2,643 and continued to grow reaching 5,946 deer harvested in 2012-2013. Last year, 4,500 deer were harvested in Washington County and 4,398 harvested in Benton County.
“It was good management, restricting the number of deer you could hunt here until the population built up,” Aggus thought.
Northwest Arkansas is a great habitat and has contributed greatly to the rise in deer population.
Deer depend on acorns and other seasonal foliage and northwestern Arkansas is not lacking in either. A bad foliage year in northwest Arkansas still does not leave the deer searching for food.
Landowners and farmers are also contributing to the rise in deer population. Many farmers are planting and growing more crops in the anticipation that they will lose some to foraging deer.
This area is a perfectly safe place for a deer to stay and be comfortable. The acorns fall and the crops grow. The deer can eat and rest in one spot, which makes them harder to hunt.
Timber companies in northwest Arkansas own tracts of thousands of acres. They lease hunting rights to private hunting clubs, but not to the public.
“You used to be able to pull over to the side of the road and go hunting…now there’s buildings and houses everywhere, and construction,” says Aggus.
Now people have to knock on houses and ask for permission to hunt. Those who do know of a place to hunt usually do not want others to know about it.
The deer population in northwest Arkansas is skyrocketing and there are many different factors that are contributing. A harvest limit was set in place in the 1900s because of the major decrease in the population. The habitat is perfect for the population to flourish and farmers are contributing to their food sources. And because of the owners of the majority of the land, it is making it harder for hunters to actually find a spot to hunt.
The deer population in the northwest Arkansas areas is very sustainable. The population keeps rising and the number of deer harvested each year is rising. It’s the perfect situation for hunter and deer.
Northwest Arkansas just has to figure out how to host hunters.