On The Road, Hunting

IZARD COUNTY - Modern gun season opens for deer hunters this Saturday at dawn.

But for some "hunters" there's no satisfaction in waiting in the stand for the perfect buck to walk by, they take matters into their own hands by cruising the back roads looking for game right along the roadside.

This type of hunting is a big problem for game and fish enforcement officers.

It's a beautiful fall day in Arkansas, driving down a back road admiring the fall colors and then standing just off the road, a beautiful buck deer.  Taking that shot is going to cost you.

Wildlife Officer Ryan Warner, "If you're caught road hunting and convicted you're facing a minimum of a 500 dollar fine up to a years suspension of your hunting and fishing privileges."

Its also an 18 point violation, with the loss of 12 points you can not apply for a deer permit. Also there can be confiscation by the state which can include all the articles you used in committing the crime such as your gun, even your vehicle. It can also cost you a year in a state penitentiary.

With nearly four thousand square miles of land and hundreds of miles of back roads, the wildlife officers have more than their fair share of road hunting and the complaints start early in the fall.

Warner,"We start receiving complaints in bout September lot of times around the first cold spell we have usually when the deer start to shed their velvet and it'll run all the way to January, February"

To hunt near a road you have to be at least a hundred feet away from the center of the road. that's the minimum distance you can be near a road to hunt in Arkansas.

One of the ways in which wildlife officers catch road hunters is the use of the mechanical deer decoy. This decoy usually covered in skin and is placed in a prominent location with officers watching nearby.

Wild Life Officer Doug Small told me "If they're road hunting, they will shoot at it, (whys that) they're looking for that deer, they're looking for those horns, looking for that trophy rack.  Its an opportunity for somebody looking to kill a deer road hunting it's an opportunity for them to shoot a deer.

During the time I was doing this story the overnight temperature dropped about 30 degrees which can make the deer restless which brings out the road hunters.

Warner, "I expect it to be quite a bit more this year just simply since were seeing more deer out on the roads. It's a great opportunity for people to road hunt."

One of the biggest reasons deer may be moving closer to the road is the fact that in this area there are really no hickory nuts and very few acorns so the deer may have to move down to the pastures where they can be seen by local road hunters.

Heidi Farrar and her husband own about 40 acres near Franklin in Izard county, this will be their fourth deer season along their country road.  She told me "There tends to be an influx of strange vehicles cruising the roads, we'll hear shots during the night.

Heidi says they don't oppose hunting on their property but what can be hunted may be limited to shotguns not rifles. "we're not really excited about people using high powered rifles on our property because it's pretty small."

According to Wild Life Officers, road hunting will actually slack off the first week of the season but toward the end frustrated hunters may take a chance.

Warner says he hears more excuses as the season draws to a close. Toward the end of the season, he usually hears " I've hunted hard all year and haven't killed one I just happened to see this one."

The Game and Fish Commission has set up poaching hotlines for both cell and regular phones, you can call these numbers for illegal road hunters or any other poaching activities.

And for those of you who still want to try your luck remember those wild life officers are out there to catch you.