Arkansas Game and Fish seek deer hunter’s help

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is seeking help from deer hunters by using their smartphones in order to assist with wildlife management efforts. The AGFC’s free Deer Hunting Observational Survey is part of the AGFC app that can be downloaded to either Apple or android smartphones. The mobile survey allows hunters to record sightings of game species such as deer, bear, quail, turkey, and furbearers and also nongame species such as feral hogs while hunting.AGFC Deer Program Coordinator Ralph Meeker is hoping hunters will provide useful data from the field through the app.

According to Meeker, deer observation data provides the deer program with needed information. The more hunters submit information, the more accurate the data will be. Harvest data is different than observation data, says Meeker. Harvest data gives a record of what is killed, while hunter observation data gives an idea of what is left.

In addition to hunter observation data, the deer program receives biological data collected from approximately 700 Deer Management Assistance Program clubs across the state; from statewide incidental deer observations collected by AGFC employees, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the USDA Forest Service within the months of August and September; and from hunter harvest data. All of the data is analyzed in order to make decisions on deer management by deer zone.

Blake Sasse, Nongame Mammal Program Coordinator for the AGFC, says the hunter observation survey has been used since 2004; however, the process went completely electronic in 2014. Originally the AGFC ran the program through the Arkansas Bowhunters Association, asking them to fill out a data sheet recording hours hunted and how many animals they saw. The AGFC app makes the data entry much easier for the array of animals being surveyed and also provides for a cleaner collection of information.

Sasse says the information is used to help track trends in populations in the species. Deer analysis  goes into more depth, such as ratio of bucks to does and antlers of various sizes for bucks. Sasse says the app and hunter-reported surveys also enable the AGFC to keep up with the trends in the feral hog population statewide.

Meeker said that at one time, the AGFC received more than 20,000 hours of hunter-reported time in the field sightings, but that number last year had fallen to 6,700 hours. Sasse adds if AGFC could get 1,000 more hunters reporting through the app, it would be a big help.

iPhone users can download or update the AGFC app at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/arkansas-game-and-fish-commission/id332350857?mt=8  to download or update the AGFC app in iTunes.

Android users can download the app or make updates at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.nicusa.huntfishar&hl=en

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