AUGUSTA – The number of any-deer permits for the 2011 hunting season was reduced to a historic low Thursday.

But Commissioner Chandler Woodcock of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife said the move is only one bold step the state will make this year in an effort to increase the deer herd.

“This is just the base of the triangle,” Woodcock said after the IFW advisory council voted unanimously to reduce the permits. “Other things will be done.

“There will be other actions taken for the coming 2011 deer season.”

The citizen-appointed council voted 9-0 to reduce the number of any-deer, or doe, permits by 46 percent from 2010 to 26,390, the number that will be issued in a lottery this summer.

The loss in the herd throughout the state after unusually severe winters in 2008 and 2009 has led the department to take many steps to increase the number of whitetail deer.

Some of the steps have been used before, such as adding road warning signs to prevent road kill, and reducing the number of any-deer permits.

But Woodcock said more steps would be forthcoming this summer.

“This is a historic low (number of doe permits) but it could have a historic rise in the number of deer,” Woodcock said.

“This is only a management tool to help the sparse population. (The department) is not going to remain stagnant. We are going to do something.”

The any-deer permit system has been used for 26 years as a way to help manage the deer herd.

The number of any-deer permits for the 2011 hunting season is the lowest since the department switched to 30 hunting districts in 1998.

Never in that time has the number of any-deer permits dipped below 43,000 until now.

Woodcock said a big reduction was not difficult to support given the lack of negative comments received during the rule-making process.

“There was minimal comment and lots of support from the areas affected,” Woodcock said.

Advisory council member Jeff Lewis of Ellsworth voiced concern that the department would lose money with nearly half the number of any-deer permits issued this year.

But Woodcock said the problem of the shrinking deer herd is a greater priority.

“The resource is my concern. There might be other opportunities to make gains in revenue. I’m hopeful,” Woodcock said.

Council member Lance Wheaton of Forrest City echoed concern over the lack of deer during a later discussion about expanding Youth Deer Day to a week to encourage youth hunting.

“If you gave youth 17 days to find a deer in Washington County, they wouldn’t find a track,” Wheaton said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

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