story by Ryan Saylor
For all of the uproar over deer hunting within Fort Smith city limits, local businesses have not seen much in the way of sales resulting from the new hunting regulations.
Richard Craft, owner of Gellco Outdoors in Fort Smith and Rogers, said sales of archery equipment, the only type of hunting allowed within city limits, is typically lower during this time of year.
"It will pick up in the middle of June, first of July, when people start thinking about bow hunting again," he said.
But even with the expected increase in archery sales, Craft said he is not expecting any increase specifically due to the urban deer hunt.
"I don't think you'll have people that will exclusively hunt that," he said. "They'll be hunting private land, national forest. This is just another avenue for people to hunt close to town or in town."
Nathan Chancey, hardlines manager at Dick's Sporting Goods in Fort Smith, said his store had not seen an increase either. He said he had never before heard of an urban deer hunt, but he does not think it will benefit business.
"I don't know that it will really make a difference," Chancey said. "Most people who have hunted have hunted for so long (that they) are pretty set in their ways."
Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey, who spearheaded the effort to have the Board of Directors pass an ordinance to authorize urban deer hunting, said hearing about the lack of business associated with the urban deer hunt to take place later this year was no surprise to him.
"Yeah, that was kind of my expectation," he said. "That's not a disappointment at all."
Lindsey said the individuals who will take part in the deer hunt were likely already skilled hunters.
"The hunters participating in the urban deer hunt have to comply with the rules and regulations from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission," he added.
Some of the rules Game and Fish Commission regulations state that all urban hunters are required to:
• Pass the International Bowhunter Education Course;
• Attend an urban hunt orientation;
• Pass a shooting proficiency test;
• Shoot from stands at least 10 feet off the ground;
• Pay annual confirmation fee, which includes membership in the ABA for liability insurance purposes;
• Possess a valid Arkansas (resident or non-resident) big game license; and
• Be at least 16 years old.
Other requirements, Lindsey said, include using a longbow, recurve or compound with at least a 40-pound pull and broadheads at least 7/8-inch wide and hunting at least 50 yards from designated trails or parks or occupied dwellings, such as schools and homes.
The chief said due to the stringent regulations in place by the Game and Fish Commission, any hunters or bystanders would have very low risk of injury or harm, something that was of utmost importance to him as the Board debated the ordinance earlier this year.
Fort Smith Director Pam Weber, a vocal opponent of the urban deer hunt, said she trusts Lindsey to keep citizens safe during the upcoming deer hunt.
"I trust that the police chief will watch this very closely and will let the Board know if any adjustments need to be made," she said.
To ensure safety, Lindsey reiterated that the urban deer hunt would be restricted to only the Chaffee Crossing section of the city and would have to take place on public lands, unless prior permission had been granted by property owners.
"No owners have approached me to authorize people to hunt on private property," he said. "(To hunt on private land in the urban hunting zone), hunters would have to get a letter from that owner."
Weber said she was pleased with Lindsey's restrictions.
"I'm happy that it's on that edge of Chaffee. I'm happy that he's set those boundaries on it," she said.
Asked whether she would be in favor of further urban hunting regulations, she said it was too early to say.
"You know, I'm just going to wait and see how it goes," she said. "You can always change your mind on issues as things play out."
Lindsey said hunters should be able to begin the process of obtaining an urban hunting permit as soon as May for an expected season in the Fall. More information can be found through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, he said.
Chancey said regular hunting licenses would be available for purchase at Dick's, though he was uncertain if urban hunting tags would be available.
"We are going to be one of the few stores (located) in a state that allows that," he said.
Link here for a PDF document of the protocols related to urban hunting in Fort Smith.