Opinions and Preferences of Arkansas Deer Hunters Regarding Harvest Management

State wildlife management agencies use harvest regulations to manage white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) herds at sustainable levels while providing recreational opportunities for sportspersons. State agencies face increasing challenges when managing white-tailed deer because hunter expectations and satisfaction levels vary. Changes in harvest regulations that may influence hunter expectations and satisfaction should be evaluated by state agencies considering alternative management strategies. We conducted a mail survey of white-tailed deer hunters in Arkansas to evaluate opinions of what constituted a “quality deer” and to determine which factors contributed to hunter expectations for an enjoyable deer season. Sixty-six percent of respondents felt that the chance to harvest a mature buck was an extremely important component of an enjoyable hunting season. Forty-four percent of respondents thought the opportunity of seeing deer while hunting was important. We found that 51% of hunters surveyed believed the current antler restriction (i.e., three-point rule) would increase their opportunity to harvest a quality deer. Hunters considered a quality deer to be either a healthy buck with ≥8 points or a healthy doe. We found that hunter-harvest expectations and perceptions of a quality deer were less for those who hunted on public land compared to private land hunters. Expectations increased as respondent education level increased. Our results indicate that deer management strategies should focus on providing opportunity and allow for management flexibility in for hunters on private lands.

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