EUREKA SPRINGS -- At last Thursday's meeting of the city's Urban Deer Hunt Committee, officials attempted to reassure any concerned residents that Arkansas Game & Fish Commission guidelines are being followed for the safest possible urban hunt possible when it is held later this year.
Gwen Bennett, member of the Urban Deer Hunt Committee, said she thinks residents would be less apprehensive if they understood the strong connection between Arkansas Game and Fish and the planned Eureka Springs urban deer hunt.
"We just took (Game & Fish's) lead and shaped it," she explained.
Police Chief Earl Hyatt, chairman of the committee, pointed out that two Game & Fish staff, Leslie Gustafson and Tommy Bawcom, live and work near Eureka Springs. Hyatt said he had spoken with Game & Fish staff members often recently, and they are pleased with what the Deer Hunt Committee has done.
"The plan we've adopted was urged on us by Game and Fish," Hyatt said.
He emphasized that the hunt will be supervised and monitored by Game and Fish. Their staff issue the deer tags, and they will have a meeting with the hunters beforehand about the rules and the spirit of the hunt.
"I think this will go off smoothly. Most people in town won't even know it's happening," Hyatt added.
Diane Wilkerson, assistant to the mayor, said that so far 32 local property owners have offered their properties to be hunted on, and others have inquired about doing so.
Hyatt addressed one question that arose at a recent council meeting about what happens if an injured animal crosses onto the property of someone who is not participating in the hunt.
"First of all, make every effort to talk to the property owner and get permission to remove the animal," he said. If the owner is not available or if the owner refuses access, then call Game and Fish, he advised -- but it is imperative to make every effort to find the injured animal. A hunter could also go the next property and try to get permission there because the animal might have crossed over again.
Bennett emphasized that there are large, unpopulated areas around Eureka Springs. Deer travel through the valleys, and many of the people live on the highlands. She said that legal bowhunting occurred for years in Eureka Springs without incident until an ordinance was passed in 2002. She also noted: "Game and Fish said that not once in their supervised hunts has there been an adverse incident."
Hyatt said that "real bowhunters" are conscientious about the rules.
Mayor Morris Pate noted that arrows and tips are expensive, and a tip will last only one shot. Arrows might also last only one shot, so hunters are careful with their tackle.
Hyatt said the rules call for hunters to be in stands at least 10 feet above ground and 50 feet from property lines. They will be shooting downward, so the chance of a stray arrow crossing onto adjacent property and causing damage is remote.
Rules also call for hunters to have written permission from a property owner before the hunt can begin.
Wilkerson has created a draft of the guidelines, and these will be available at the mayor's office.
Property owners who want to offer their property for the hunt can still notify the mayor's office at 479-253-9703.