Urban Deer Hunt Season Begins, Local Processors Hopeful

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Arkansas urban deer hunt season began Saturday (Sept. 7), and bow hunters don't need to travel any further than Chaffee Crossing to bag their next buck.

According to Ralph Meeker with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, deer have become a problem in the Chaffee Crossing area which stretches over parts of Fort Smith and Barling. Meeker said urban hunts are an effective way to thin out the local deer population.

People interested in joining the urban bow hunt will need to pass the International Bowhunter Education Program course, attend an urban hunt orientation and pass a proficiency exam. There are no bag limits or antler restrictions in an urban deer hunt.

"We're not managing for a quality balanced population, we're managing for a healthy population that can co-exist with human population," said Meeker.

Meeker said deer living in urban areas are susceptible to disease, and overpopulation of deer in an area can lead to malnutrition. He said roads can become hazardous leading to deer and vehicle collisions.

The AGFC has prohibited hunters from bringing in the carcasses of antlered animals from outside the state in an effort to prevent chronic wasting disease from spreading to the local deer population.

Roger Key, owner of Garner Abattoir Meat Processing & Taxidermy in Van Buren, said local meat processors and taxidermists will lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if they cannot process deer from Oklahoma.

Key said at least five local business owners met with the AGFC to express their concerns about the economic impact the ban will have on their businesses. They discussed a variety of mutually beneficial solutions including the idea of creating a "one-county buffer zone" around the state.

Key said he hopes the urban hunts are successful since the boundaries are located inside the state lines. However, he said even a great urban hunt season won't fully replace the revenue they've potentially lost due to the ban.

"Between the three plants that we've talked to we're talking about upwards of two thousand deer," said Key. "We may generate a hundred deer a plant out of the urban hunt."

Another meeting will take place later this month with the AGFC's ten-member voting board. Key said the local processors and taxidermists remain hopeful the ban will be lifted.