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High water closes deer hunting in some Arkansas areas

JONESBORO – High water on the White and Cache rivers has forced the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to temporarily close deer season in some wildlife management areas of eastern Arkansas, as well as some private land in the Cache River basin. Deer hunters are urged to check current water levels in their area before heading out for the opening of modern gun deer season, Nov. 10.

As of Nov. 7, Rex Hancock Black Swamp WMA near Gregory, Henry Gray Hurricane Lake near Bald Knob and Flood Prone Region C, which includes private land near Augusta, are closed to deer hunting.

The bottomland hardwood forests of eastern Arkansas offer excellent habitat for large deer populations, but these low-lying areas also can become inundated quickly, pushing deer into smaller areas with less available cover. This creates a situation where deer may become vulnerable to overharvest, and removes some of the aspects of fair chase. Hunting in flooded areas also increases the chances of game loss as fatally hit deer may run into swift-moving stream or deep areas before hunters can recover their harvest.

Ralph Meeker, deer program coordinator for the AGFC, points out that flood prone zones also include those areas of high ground where the deer concentrate during floods.

“It can be tempting to try harvesting one of these deer seeking sanctuary, especially at the beginning of the season when everyone’s excited or in areas that have a very limited time span to hunt with modern guns,” said Ralph Meeker, AGFC deer program coordinator. “But as conservationists, we hunters have the responsibility to ensure the health of the deer herd and to abide by a certain code of ethics.”

The AGFC includes questions on flood prone zones during regular hunter opinion surveys. The last such survey was completed in 2018 by a third-party survey group, Responsive Management. A statistically valid sample of hunters who pursue deer in flood prone zones was interviewed by email to determine their approval of flood prone zones. According to that survey 60 percent of hunters who hunted in regions with flood prone zones were in favor of closing deer hunting when the water rose to the criteria in place.

Only deer hunting is closed during flood-prone zone closures. Seasons and limits for other game animals remain unchanged.

A description of all flood-prone regions and criteria for closures are available on pages 56-57 of the 2018-19 Arkansas Hunting Guidebook and at https://www.agfc.com/en/hunting/big-game/deer/fpz. Visit www.agfc.com or call the AGFC Wildlife Information Hotline at 800-440-1477 for the status of all flood-prone regions, updated each day at 3.p.m.