Arkansas Deer Population:  An estimate of about 900,000 whitetail deer in 2022 and 875,00,000 in 2021.  Estimated at around 1 million in 2011 through 2018.  A record hunt of 216,835 deer taken in 2020 with a lot of hunters afield during the pandemic.  The population has been roughly stable since the year 2000.

Arkansas Deer News

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission researching chronic wasting disease as spread continues April 20, 2024 KATV

... The most recent CWD report shows an increase in deer testing positive for the disease—up to 236 from 217 last fiscal year... a CWD Population Impact Study ...  to see what this disease will do to our deer herd in Newton and Searcy Counties, where we're seeing the highest prevalence ..,

White-tailed deer in Pea Ridge Military Park tests positive for Chronic Wasting Disease April 17, 2024 Arkansas, 5newsonline on MSN

... The one positive test came from a white-tailed herd health sampling at the military park. Although CWD has been present in Arkansas since 2016, this is the first positive detection at the Pea Ridge Military Park..,

White-tailed deer in Arkansas tests positive for chronic wasting disease, AGFC confirms February 23, 2024 Arkansas, KNWA Fayetteville on MSN

... a white-tailed deer in Craighead County tested positive for chronic wasting disease.  Officials said that the 2-year-old doe was harvested near Jonesboro during the Arkansas modern gun deer hunt..,

Commission hears hunting regulations proposals February 22, 2024 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

... They include:  Opening a three-day "velvet buck" archery deer hunt during the first full weekend of September... Eliminating the Private Land Antlerless-Only Modern Gun Deer Hunt... Restrict nonresidents to pursue deer with dogs during only the last nine days of modern gun season ...

Deer management on private lands gets boost in Arkansas January 30, 2023 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

... The establishment of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission in 1916 came as a result of the realization that deer were about to become extinct. At the time, estimates showed there were perhaps as few as 2,000 deer in the entire state..,

Once a hunter’s paradise, Arkansas’ deer population overhunted then restored December 17, 2023 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

... When pioneers arrived in Arkansas, wild game abounded... In 1916 ... it is estimated that there were perhaps as few as 2,000 deer in the entire state ... By 1930, less than 500 deer ... By 1946, there were 32,000 deer in the state ... In 1939, only 540 deer were harvested and in 1945 there was some 3,000 killed. It is estimated that the deer population in Arkansas today exceeds 1 million ..,

AGFC wildlife veterinarian, National Deer Association offer five reasons to test your deer for CWD December 15, 2023 Arkansas, Stuttgart Daily Leader

...  Dr. Jennifer Ballard, wildlife veterinarian for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission ... recently partnered with the National Deer Association to increase awareness of chronic wasting disease and the importance of having your harvested deer tested. The article “Five Reasons to get Your Deer Tested for CWD” gave a concise message to a national audience ...

Modern gun deer season kicks off this weekend: What's new and reminders November 9, 2023 Arkansas, KATV Little Rock/Pine Bluff 

...  over 300,000 people expected to be out hunting ...  "We had almost 40,000 deer checked in on [last year's] opening weekend ...

AGFC looks into spear hunting  October 26, 2023 The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

... Currently, Nebraska is the only state in the Lower 48 that allows spears for deer hunting statewide. Spears are legal for all game in Alaska... An arrow broadhead, in comparison, has a small diameter. Marginal shots wound and maim animals and often cause delayed mortality. Often, hunters do not recover poorly shot animals...

Wild deer find refuge in urban habitats in northwest Arkansas October 24, 2023 KUAF

... An overabundance of nuisance deer which began to appear fifteen years ago, prompted voters to approve a limited number of urban bow hunting permits.  “I think they found that really didn't work well inside the city,” Evans said.  Because residents opposed to hunting deer banged pots and pans to drive them away from hunters’ tree stands in Eureka. The city has since outlawed feeding deer within city limits, which has resulted in a population decline, Evans said, citing deer-car collision data...

AGFC requests deer disease samples October 8, 2023 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

... the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wants to remind all hunters to help monitor chronic wasting disease in the state by using one of the AGFC's free CWD testing locations... All testing locations are available at 

Nine Arkansas cities to begin deer hunting in early fall May 23, 2023 KARK

... “We need a safe way to hunt deer, and obviously shooting deer in places like that is not safe and that’s why we turn to urban bow hunts,” Jeff Williams of the Arkansas Game and Commission said...

Chronic Wasting Disease, Map exposes deer disease’s sobering reality April 23, 2023 Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

...  the latest map shows the disease steadily filling gaps between occurrences across the state. The highest prevalence rates, about 32%, are in the vicinity of the Buffalo National River... The intent of eliminating antler point restrictions in the CWD control zones is to encourage hunters to shoot young bucks, but hunters are not doing that ..,

Factors Affecting the Sex Ratio of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) Fetuses in Arkansas J Garrie, R Meeker 2022, Arkansas Academy of Science [recently posted online

... Fetuses from 1,208 female white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) were collected over a 10-year period (2002-2012), across 75 counties in Arkansas... We found that mass of the mother had the greatest impact on fetal sex-ratios, with heavier females producing more male fetuses (β = 0.217 ± 0.008, P = 0.001). Female body condition (KFI) did not impact fetal sex-ratios...

2022-23 deer harvest up from 2021-22 season March 9, 2023 Arkansas, Stuttgart Daily Leader

...  “There’s a variety of reasons why we will be down (from our average). We had a record harvest in 2020, so we may have impacted some carryover. Add to that some inclement weather during muzzleloader season, the warmest Arkansas winter on record, and a phenomenal mast crop (which is known to greatly affect deer movement), and it’s easy to see where we landed...

Clarksville man faces jail time for illegally dumping deer carcasses January 13, 2023 Arkansas, KNWA News

... Arkansas Game and Fish found that a taxidermy and processing business in the area paid a man to dispose of the carcasses ...

     Piles of deer carcasses and bones dumped on Johnson County, Arkansas land January 10, 2023 Arkansas, YAHOO!News

... Illegally dumping deer carcasses can spread chronic waste disease, a commission spokesman reports. None of the remains had been buried properly when found, and the man accused of dumping them did not have permission, law officers allege...

Deer Data:  Population estimates reported in the press for 2022 of 1.1 million and nearly one million deer, exceeding 1 million in 2023The chart below shows the estimated population based on the approximate estimates mentioned in this column and hunting data, giving a population estimate of 896,000 (abut 900,000) in 2022, 875,000 in 2021, and about the same in 2020.

Data and Analysis for the Chart Below

An estimate of 2020 of 900,000 deer from Outdoor Life.  The record 2020 deer kill is partially attributed to more hunters hunting longer as a result of the pandemic.  Abundant food supported populations in 2019.  The number of resident deer hunters fell by about 15 percent in the five years leading up to 2019.  A estimate by the state at 1 million or more deer in 2012 through 2017 and 2018, a million in 2011.  A wet spring and dry summer in 2018.  Record harvest of 213,487 in 2013, slightly less in 2014.  

An estimated population of about one million in 2013, up from 400,000 to 500,000 in the 1980s.  Good environmental conditions for the herd in 2013 with a wet spring and summer, good browse through summer, and high mast production.  A goal of a deer sex ratio of 50-50 in 2013.  Very strong population in south Arkansas, but less robust in the Ozarks. Fewer deer in the northeast, where there is limited habitat, and in the Ouachita Mountains, where there is poor soil fertility and habitat quality.  Deer in the northwest rely significantly on the acorn crop which vary dramatically from year to year.  Deer in south have a wider variety of food source which makes it less variable.  

The state strategy is a balanced hunt in terms of age and sex distributions, but many hunters won't shoot does.  In 2013, for the first time ever, more does that bucks were reported in the harvest  107,247 does to 105,952 bucks.  A legal buck must have both antlers shorter than 2 inches (button buck) or have three or more points on one side of his rack.   Habitat is limited for deer, so populations are low in the northeast and the Ouachita Mountains.  The peak of the rut is between October 28 and November 21 in the west of the state, a little later in the east,  between Nov. 22 and Dec. 14.  Average peak is Nov. 11.

 Chronic Wasting Disease was first discovered in 2016 in an elk found dead near Pruitt on the Buffalo National River in October of 2015.  Elk were imported to the state in the 1980s from out west — including CWD-positive Colorado.  Many new cases were discovered in 2016 indicating the disease had been prevalent earlier.  By early December, 150 white-tailed deer and six elk were confirmed with CWD.  In 2016 the AGFC said there is no link between a case of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease reported Wednesday in Fayetteville and chronic wasting disease in Newton County.   

Seventy new cases discovered during the 2017 deer season.  In the 2018-19 hunting season 238 new cases.  A total of 770 cases into December 2019.  For the 2020-21 hunting season 7,808 samples from white-tailed deer and 57 samples resulted in 261 deer and seven elk testing positive with four more discovered at the end of the year.  In April, 2023, the highest infection rate was 32% near the Buffalo National River and the total positives up to the end of fiscal year (FY) 2023 was 1.533 out of 50,558 tested.  More in 2024, up to 236 positives in the 2023-24 from 217 last fiscal year.

Arkansas Deer Harvest 1938 to 2021

Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

History:  Deer were abundant prior to the arrival of Europeans, but over hunting and habitat destruction reduced the deer herd to about 2,000 in 1916.  The 1917 Legislature passed an act to restrict hunting of does until 1922.  An estimate of abut 500 deer in the 1920s.  The 1927 flood killed many deer; the 1930 deer count was about 500 or less.    When mandatory checking of hunted deer started in 1938, a population estimate of 5,000, just 203 deer were checked.

Restocking and deer refuges were implemented for the next 20 years, a buck only harvest was instituted to boost the herd.  There were 44 refuges or deer farms in the restocking program in 1950.  "In the 1940s and 1950s, the focus was on protecting does because the goal was to bring back populations from near extinction.

By 1946 biologists estimated there were nearly 32,000 whitetails in the state.  An estimated 40,000 deer by 1950.  By 1960 about 200,000. By 1972, when the population had reached 300,000, deer had spread to nearly every part of the state..,


About 300,000 deer in 1972 and 500,000 by 1985 when management shifted to stabilization with a significant doe harvest.  An estimated 1989 population of 700,000 and 1990. In 1998 the three point rule made it illegal to shoot a buck with less than three antler points on one side, an effort to improve age demographics.  About 25 percent of hunting is on public land.

Population Estimates:  25,000 in 1940, 230,000 in 1968Estimates:  Abundant in 1890.  2,000 in 1919.  By 1930, less than 500.  By 1946, nearly 32,000.  In 1950. 40,000.   In 1972, 300,000.   Estimated at 33,565 in 1945.  A 1954 estimate of 100,000 to 150,000.

Elk  About 600 elk in 2016.

Mountain Lion:  An unofficial estimate of 20 to 30 in the state in 2018, at least one female with cubs seen, another estimate of about 100.

Wolves:  An unofficial estimate of 75 to 125  in 2022.

Report Sick Deer:  (800) 482-9262 or email  Information on Chronic Wasting Disease in Arkansas

Other useful links:

- Deer Hunting Regulations and Information     - Deer Harvest Data

- Arkansas Conservation Center 

Report sick deer to Game and Fish at 1-800-482-9262

- Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

- Statewide Goals and Objectives General Objective Example for Deer Management Manage and maintain a healthy, stable deer herd appropriate for the habitat. 

- Arkansas Game and Fish Commission News