It wasn’t a good year to be a deer in Arkansas.
According to recent reports, hunters harvested a record number of deer during this year’s hunt in the state. While the pandemic likely played a part in more hunters participating, officials also said environmental conditions this year contributed to the high yield.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission reported that hunters checked 214,022 deer this season. Last season was reportedly a particularly low scoring season, with only 188,151 deer checked for the harvest. The previous record harvest came in the 2012-2013 season, which saw 213,487 deer harvested.
Ralph Meeker, AGFC deer program coordinator, said, "Last season was the result of a perfect storm lined up against harvest. Spring and summer flooding in 2018 and 2019 contributed to lower fawn recruitment in certain parts of the state. Then a massive crop of hard mast (primarily acorns) reduced deer movement and made deer feeders much less productive."
He continued, "On top of that, flooding during the peak of the gun season closed hunting in some parts of the state. All three of these factors contributed to what we witnessed in the 2019-20 deer harvest."
Meeker also believes that locals’ worries about potential meat shortages due to the pandemic may have affected their hunting habits.
"I know of several people who harvested (or attempted to harvest) more deer than they normally would this season to fill their freezer for the coming year," Meeker said. "We’ve also likely seen some hunters who had not purchased a license in a few years get reactivated this year, but those are only two factors that went into the high harvest. All of the factors that hindered harvest in 2019 were nearly the exact opposite in 2020."