Deer Hunters, Wildlife Managers Agree On Enforcement

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LITTLE ROCK – Listen in on a conversation about deer hunting in Arkansas, especially what is needed to improve it, and chances are about 9 in 10 that someone will comment, “They need more game wardens out there.”

Wildlife officers, “game wardens” to much of the public keep busy in each one of Arkansas’s 75 counties on deer matters, and it’s year-round, not just during hunting seasons.

Enforcement is one consistency discussed at the citizens advisory group meetings that were a key part of the new Strategic White-tailed Deer Management Plan of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission that is now in effect.

The plan was developed by AGFC personnel with the several dozen private citizens who participated in idea and planning sessions. It was approved by AGFC’s commissioners and plan supplants a 1999 deer management plan for Arkansas.

The plan says the enforcement goal is to “enhance enforcement efforts to ensure compliance with AGFC regulations.”

It is much more involved than those few words, of course, and a key goal is to have the wildlife officers, the hunters and various organizations develop working relationships to cut down poaching and other illegal and clandestine activities.

The deer plan lists four strategies for enforcement.

One is to “maximize enforcement efforts to focus on the most severe violations by scheduling and prioritizing enforcement patrols during peak sportsman activity periods.”

A second is to “promote communication between wildlife officers, local sportsmen and hunting clubs and organizations by using community-oriented police techniques and by presenting credible witness programs at deer management workshops.”

The third is to “ensure that wildlife officers have the training and equipment to address concerns from citizens by maintaining maximum authorized enforcement staffing.”

And the fourth is to “Maintain penalties that serve as deterrents to violations of deer regulations.” These penalties can include fines, confiscation of equipment including vehicles and suspension or revoking of hunting licenses.

The enforcement goal is one of the six elements of the new plan. The other categories of the plan are Resource, Sociological, Habitat, Education and Communication. The complete deer management plan can be found online at: http://www.agfc.com/hunting/deer/deerplan_revision.aspx.

More enforcement across Arkansas was one of the priorities voiced by Arkansas sportsmen a dozen years ago before the vote that resulted in Amendment 75 to the Arkansas Constitution, the Conservation Sales Tax. After the tax went into effect, more wildlife officers were added to the AGFC staff so every county has at least two stationed within it. Many counties have three officers.