Although Arkansas is predominantly rural, we have the same deer overpopulation issues that some large cities have.
To alleviate these issues, Bull Shoals, Cherokee Village, Fairfield Bay, Heber Springs, Helena / West Helena, Horseshoe Bend, Hot Springs Village, Lakeview, and Russellville run controlled and archery-only hunts within their incorporated boundaries.
The hunts will begin September 1 and are conducted in partnership between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the Arkansas Bowhunters Association, and the Bull Shoals and Lakeview Urban Bowhunters Association. Ralph Meeker, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission deer program coordinator, said the partnership with the two archery associations helps ensure participating hunters are competent and guides hunters on the way to be discreet and understand the nuances of urban hunting.
âAll hunters must take a proficiency test, pass the International Bow Hunter Education Program (IBEP) course and attend an orientation before receiving their urban hunting tags,â Meeker said. “The training is not difficult, but it ensures that participants are able to make ethical choices and a clean harvest.”
According to State Farm Insurance, Arkansas ranks high in deer-vehicle collisions. The ornamental gardens, golf courses and green spaces of retirement communities such as Fairfield Bay, Hot Springs Village and Cherokee Village provide ideal habitat where deer can live their entire lives in virtual solitude. In communities that organize urban hunts, bow hunters help reduce deer to more tolerable numbers.
Mike Stanley of Highland is an avid bow hunter who has participated in the Cherokee Village urban bow hunt since its inception. He also participated in the urban archery hunts at Horseshoe Bend. He said the hunts provided plenty of hunting opportunities ahead of the statewide archery season opening in areas that don’t experience a lot of hunting pressure. The main reason he loves them is that the hunts accomplish their purpose. In addition, reducing competition for forage improves the health of the remaining deer.
“One thing that is remarkable to me, and others have said it in Cherokee Village and Horseshoe Bend, is that these urban hunts produce much healthier deer than there was in these places before the urban hunts.” , Stanley said. âDeer are healthier because they’re not that crowded. We no longer see the large herds as before, but the ones we do see are healthier.
Stanley said communities scrutinize applicants carefully before awarding permits. This helps ensure security and good public relations. The verification process eliminates unethical hunters and those who might be inclined to bend or bend the rules. For example, Cherokee Village Hunting Candidates may not have any Serious Hunting Violations on their records. They are also required to successfully complete the International Bowhunter Training Course, and they must attend a field exercise to demonstrate that they are proficient in their bows. This involves putting three arrows in the kill zone of a target 20 yards away.
âWhen I picked up mine, they really introduced us to basic safety, ethics and common sense,â Stanley said.
Hunters must find their own hunting grounds. This requires creating new contacts and tapping on existing contacts. Some hunters contact local leaders to find landowners who have reported problems with deer.
There are hundreds of acres in the village of Cherokee, Horseshoe Bend, and Hot Springs that have no homes or people living nearby. Even so, hunters need to understand that people can show up anywhere, anytime. Someone walking a dog in front of your booth certainly makes the hunt difficult, but participants understand that crowd participation comes with these special places.
Scouting in urban areas is also a challenge. The weather is hot in early September. The trees are in full foliage and have not yet started dropping the acorns. The deer have not started their fall journeys and feeding habits.
âI approach this as I approach hunting public lands,â Stanley said. âI want to familiarize myself as much as possible with the region. I look for the features of the terrain, like the gullies and the designs that the deer like to roam. People don’t build houses in gullies and draw, so I focus on those.
Like public lands, neighborhood hunting areas can change from year to year. Someone can build a new house in an old hot spot, or a severe storm can ruin an area.
Overall, hunting has also become more difficult than it was in the early years. There aren’t as many deer as there were 15-20 years ago, and the deer have adapted to the pressure.
âAnyone who thinks urban deer are stupid deer is sadly wrong,â Stanley said. “They are wise.”
Stanley says he considers killing deer in urban hunts a public service.
âRoute 175 runs through the middle of the village of Cherokee,â Stanley said. “Every time I take one, I have one more that won’t run out in front of someone.”
Deer killed during urban hunts do not count towards a hunter’s seasonal limit. Hunters can take an unlimited number of deer and there are no restrictions on antlers. They are also to give the first adult deer they kill to the Arkansas hunters who feed the hungry.
For more information, visit www.agfc.com/en/hunting/big-game/deer/special-hunt-permits/urban-archery-hunt. Additional details are available at www.arkansasbowhunters.org.