(KAIT/AGFC) - LITTLE ROCK (KAIT/AGFC) - Arkansas deer hunters saw a big change in the way they could check their deer last year. Many, however, were left wanting their old waterproof game tags to ensure their deer were properly marked. This year those tags are right inside the annual hunting guidebooks being delivered to stores across the state.
Thanks to a newly developed license system, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission offered hunters and anglers the ability to carry their license information on their phone or print it off on standard printer paper. This enabled anyone to purchase their license any time of day through their home computer or smartphone.
"The last thing a wildlife officer wants to do is give a law-abiding hunter a ticket for a simple oversight, but it's amazing how many people forget to renew their license until the night before the hunt," said Randy Zellers, AGFC assistant chief of communications. "I've personally run around to find an open store that sold licenses on opening morning instead of being in the deer stand because I was so focused on the details of the hunt that I forgot the most important part. Now it only takes about 10 minutes on a phone to get your license and be legal for the hunt."
With the new electronic license option, the requirement of tagging your game has seen changes as well. Now, instead of using tags attached to the license, a hunter can tag their animal with any material as long as it includes their name, customer ID number, the method the game was taken and the date and time of harvest.
"We had hunters tag their deer with everything from duct tape to Twinkie wrappers last year," Zellers said. "But we still had many people who wanted waterproof tags."
The AGFC delivered waterproof tags to all license dealers last year, but many were collected quickly by eager hunters for their entire camp. This year, thanks to a partnership with the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, a set of waterproof tags is available in the center spread of every annual hunting guidebook.
Hunters still are able to check their deer whenever they have a signal on their phone or through the AGFC's mobile app and forego the tag if the deer remains within their immediate possession until it reaches its final destination, but the addition of the courtesy tags will go a long way to help hunters who prefer a physical tag to identify their harvest until it is checked later.
The new guidebook also includes a small section to remind hunters about ethical behavior in the woods, a talking point from Commission Chairman Ford Overton.
"Hunter ethics and good responsible sportsmanship is vital to all of our efforts, including recruiting the next generation of hunters," Overton said. "It's up to [hunters today] to make sure that newcomers to our passion learn the right behavior, and that means to lead by example."
This year's printed guidebooks do have one point to clarify, however.
On Page 50 of the guidebook under the definition of legal deer, it states, "Hunters who are 6 to 15 years old may harvest any buck at any time of year, regardless of antler size or points." This should read "Hunters who are 6 to 15 years old may harvest any buck during any open deer hunting season, regardless of antler size or points."
Zellers says the error was created during recent attempts to simplify some of the language in the regulations.
"We obviously did not mean to say that youths may harvest deer year-round, however we do want to clarify this as some overzealous hunters may think the new language offers them this opportunity," Zellers said. "This unfortunate mistake is included in the printed guidebook, but we have corrected the digital version of the guidebook available at www.agfc.com to reflect the correct language."