Share This Article
According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s online harvest totals, hunters aged 6 to 15 checked 9,153 deer during last weekend’s annual youth modern gun deer hunt.
Ralph Meeker, AGFC deer program coordinator, says the first youth weekend typically results in a harvest between 8,000 and 11,000 deer statewide.
“This year’s harvest falls right in line with those historical numbers,” Meeker said. “It’s right on par with the 2020-21 season. There may be a few more deer show up in the system as some of the remaining data points are cleaned up, but I wouldn’t expect it to change by more than 100 deer.”
Meeker says the success of the youth hunt is largely influenced by weather conditions because it is only two days.
“We had significant storms roll through on Friday night, right before the hunt,” Meeker said. “I’m sure a few hunters who had set up pop-up blinds may have had to go find them in the dark that first morning from the wind having blown them away, but overall it was great weather during the hunt,” Meeker said.
Acorns and other hard mast also can impact many hunters’ success on private land, as heavy acorn crops can entice deer away from feeders and make them harder to pattern. Although this year’s drought conditions caused many oaks in some parts of Arkansas to drop their acorns early, other areas fared much better.
“The acorn crop really is highly variable around the state. Some areas have acorns and other areas are spotty at best,” Meeker said. Even though the first youth hunt has concluded, Meeker reminds hunters that there are still plenty of opportunities to take a youth hunter along.
“Traditionally about 12 percent of our annual harvest comes from hunters younger than 16,” Meeker said. “That includes the special youth hunts, as well as all of the other hunting seasons. The second youth hunt, which is at the end of the year (Jan. 7-8, 2023), will only account for a few hundred deer, but we’ll see plenty of youth hunters checking deer this weekend during the regular modern gun deer season opener, too.”
The overall deer harvest looks to be on track with recent years as well, with nearly 44,000 deer being checked leading into the big weekend. According to annual deer harvest reports, roughly 60 percent of Arkansas’s deer harvest occurs in November, and the opening weekend of modern gun season posts more deer in two days than the annual archery harvest.
Going into opening day, Meeker stresses that safety is extremely important — firearms safety as well as treestand safety.
“We still had several treestand falls while deer hunting last year that resulted in injuries, four of which were fatal,” Meeker said. “Always use a safety harness, and no matter what sort of stand or saddle you use, give it a thorough inspection for worn straps and bolts before you ever take it to the woods to hang it.”
It’s also critical to make sure you tag your deer if you cannot check it before moving it. If for some reason you don’t have it checked, you need to make your own tag or use one from the AGFC Hunting Guidebook so a wildlife officer can verify the deer is yours and can follow up to make sure it is checked within 12 hours of harvest.