Commission Discusses Hunting Deer with Dogs Issue

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Commissioners from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission have been wrestling with the conflicts between property owners and deer dog hunters for several years. At today’s meeting, the commission discussed a proposal to gather all interested parties to work out a compromise for all concerned.

At December’s commission meeting, two landowners from north-central Arkansas gave commissioners several chilling accounts of confrontations with deer dog hunters on their property.

The two landowners said they had received threats and had been assaulted by deer dog hunters. The retribution came after hunters, who were using dogs to hunt deer, trespassed and were confronted by the landowners.

Another landowner said deer dog hunters shot at a deer crossing her land, forcing her to lie down or risk being hit by a stray bullet. Other related stories included cut fences, dead animals found in yards, verbal threats and many other types of harassment.

During today’s meeting, former Cleburne County Judge Dan Verser presented the commission with a petition in support of deer dog hunting. “This contains not only signatures from deer dog hunters, but also landowners representing over 460,000 acres in and around zone 8,” Verser said.

Most of the conflicts between property owners and deer dog hunters have occurred in the Cleburne County area. AGFC Director Scott Henderson said he wanted to work with people in deer zone 8, which includes part of Cleburne County, to find a compromise. “I want to look at getting these people together and see if everyone concerned can find some common ground,” Henderson said. “We want to penalize the people who are causing the problems, but we don’t want to paint all deer dog hunters with the same brush.”

Henderson said that over the next few months, AGFC staff would be looking at ways to resolve the disputes and would present those findings to the commission. One such action could be an increase in penalties for shooting from the road. Currently, the fine for road hunting ranges from $100 to $1,000.

In other business, the commission approved an overhaul of the state’s hunting license format. Beginning with the fall 2005 seasons, hunting licenses will include tags for deer and turkey and will also expire June 30 each year.

Sportsman licenses sold from January to the July 2005 implementation of the new format will be sent a replacement license with tags that will expire June 30, 2006. Holders of the over 65 license, disabled license and hunters under the age of 16 will attach a tag with their name on each harvested deer and turkey. An annual supply of tags will be mailed to holders of the $1,000 lifetime sportsman license.

Henderson said the motivation behind the change was to improve data collection on harvested deer and turkey. “Game tags attached to a license are a recognized and standard method to match a harvested animal, and to help insure that it is properly checked,” he said. “We need this data so that we can make informed decisions on the management of our resources.”

Since 1991, the license format had an expiration date one year from the date of purchase. Prior to that year, the commission issued a set of game tags along with a license that expired June 30 of each year. This system of an annual fixed expiration date coincides with the regulation-setting process and will enable the agency to print the exact number of tags for the fall/spring hunting seasons.