Deer numbers are low, officials say

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - There's something Arkansas hunters say they're just not seeing much of deer.

Shaun Merrell, Facility Director at the Crowley's Ridge Nature Center with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said the numbers are low right now.

But, he says this is normal.

"What we're seeing right now is kind of typical," Merrell said. "Our numbers, as far as harvest numbers, are slightly down compared to where they were this time last year. But again, that's typical of the good mass crop that we had this past year. There are a lot of acorns and food on the ground. And so, what tends to happen ... is acorns are a deer's favorite food. And a lot of typical hunters will hunt out of a stand with a feeder in front of him. And so, when those acorns start hitting the ground, deer head straight for the acorns. So, they're less likely to come to feeders at that time."

Merrell said another thing keeping the deer away are people.

"And when a lot of folks start getting in the woods," Merrell said. "When deer season opens, that warns the deer and lets him know something is up. A lot of times for that reason they'll turn to a nocturnal feeding. So, they're out more or less through the night and aren't walking around so much during the day."

Merrell said he believes the number of deer harvested will meet what the numbers were last year.

"As far as numbers go," Merrell said. "What we are seeing, even though the harvest numbers may be down, we're on track to meet what we probably harvested last year. But what we are seeing this year are a lot of good quality bucks that are being harvested. Those numbers are extremely high. And if you remember, last year we had a good mass crop as well. And so, there's two years we had good acorns on the ground. We had a lot of rain this spring. So, we're seeing a lot of where typically two-and-a-half-year-old bucks are harvested, we're seeing older than that harvested. So, there's been some really nice bucks harvested this year."

Merrell said there's still time for hunters to get out there.

"I guess you could say we're in the middle of deer season," Merrell said. "Even though the main modern gun season, the big season, is over. We still have a modern gun hunt coming up after Christmas. Depending on what zone you're in, if you're up in the hills and all, we have a three-day muzzle load hunt coming up. And so, there's still opportunity out there. And so, what you're going to find now is. . .you know, we talk about the acorns and how there are so many of them out there and food is so plentiful. Well, for the acorns to rot or deteriorate you need real cold temperatures and you need moisture. This is something we haven't really had yet. So, those acorns that hit the ground several weeks ago are still good. Now that we're starting to get the colder temperatures and we get moisture, that's going to start driving the deer to search for food and to the feeders. So, you've got a little bit of time left."

Merrell said deer are also in the fields right now.

"You see a lot of deer," Merrell said. "This time of year, forging on the green they kind find out there in the fields. So even though numbers may be slightly down, they're really on track to meet what we harvested last year. Last year we harvest 202,070 deer in the state of Arkansas. Just guessing, I would assume we're going to get real close to meeting that this year before the season winds up completely."

Merrell said hunting season for deer will end at a certain time depending on what you're hunting with and where you are.

"Muzzle load will pretty much wrap up in some of these zones after this weekend," Merrell said. "Your modern gun hunt is the 26th, 27th and 28th of December depending on what zone you're in. Archery season goes on into the first of the year, next year."

You can go to the Arkansas Game and Fish website for information about hunting regulations or stop by the Crowley's Ridge Nature Center and pick up a hunting guidebook.

To log onto their website, click here.

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