Arkansas doesn’t quite know where it is. Or, to put it more accurately, many people are unsure how to describe where it is. The Natural State is sort of the Deep South, sort of the Midwest and sort of Appalachia.
What no one should argue against, however, is the claim that Arkansas is a great whitetail state. Although chronic wasting disease has been found in whitetails in seven northern counties — Newton, Boone, Carroll, Madison, Marion, Pope and Searcy — over the past year, there’s still ample reason to be enthused about hunting here. In particular, Arkansas is one of the South’s best states for taking trophy bucks with bowhunting gear.
As the accompanying map illustrates, the overall greatest concentration of trophy bow bucks entered into P&Y has been from the rich farm country of eastern and southeastern Arkansas. There, Desha County is the unquestioned king of entries, with 38 all time — and an impressive 30 of those since 2010. The fellow farming counties of Arkansas (35) and Chicot (23) also offer the fertile soil, abundant crops and limited hunting pressure needed to grow numbers of king-sized deer, but they haven’t matched Desha in yielding bucks for the book.
Elsewhere in the state there’s also solid trophy potential in bow season, but zeroing in on the best overall locations takes a bit more guesswork. The counties with the most entries are somewhat scattered.
That said, several isolated counties have proved they’re worth hunting. For example, Benton County, which touches both Missouri and Oklahoma in the state’s northwestern corner, has surged in recent years. In fact, 12 of the county’s all-time P&Y entries have been submitted in this decade.
You’ll find much the same situation in topographically diverse Saline County, which lies just west of Little Rock in central Arkansas. Nine of its 12 entries have been made since 2010. And while Hempstead County has only 11 P&Ys to its credit, nine of those have been entered since 2010.
Meanwhile, some other counties have dropped off a lot in the number of entries. This doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t remain good bowhunting areas, but for whatever reason, not as many bucks are finding their way into the book. A great example is White County. It has 29 all-time P&Y bucks, second-most of anywhere in the state — but only five of those have been entered since 2010.
Many of the seven counties with documented cases of CWD (as of this writing in January 2017) are in the general area in which elk relocated from the Rocky Mountains many years ago now live. While experts continue to debate if that fact is coincidental or not, the main effect has been heightened monitoring of the deer herd. There’s also been talk of loosening or even eliminating antler restrictions, which have been in place in one part of the state or another for a quarter-century.