LITTLE ROCK — Getting your deer tested for chronic wasting disease not only is free through the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, it might even land you a free hunting and fishing for life. Thanks to a donation from the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation, every Arkansas resident who has their harvested deer tested for CWD this year will be entered to win one of two gift certificates for a free Resident Sportsman's Lifetime Combination License and Permit. Hunters who submit multiple deer for testing will have increased chances of being selected. AGFC employees and immediate families are ineligible to win.
“We’re just looking for a way to show people how much we appreciate their help as we work together in managing this disease,” Cory Gray, chief of the AGFC’s Research Division, said. “We said at the beginning that fighting CWD is a marathon, not a sprint, and we want to remind people that we all need to remain vigilant because this race is not over.”
According to Gray, the drawing for the two gift certificates will be conducted after the 2021-22 deer hunting season has concluded. Winners will be selected from all hunters who submit a sample, regardless of the test results.
“We really want to thank the Foundation for making this possible,” Gray said. “This is just one more way they have stepped up to help us promote the valuable conservation work that takes place every day at the AGFC. The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation are solid partners with common values”
There are more than 100 locations for hunters to have their deer tested for CWD for free during the 2021-22 deer hunting season, and at least one testing location is available in every county in the state. Fifty-three participating taxidermists will take a sample for hunters for free, many will do so regardless of if you choose to use them for taxidermy purposes. A network of drop-off locations also are available where hunters can drop off the head of their deer with the antlers removed and have results back within two to three weeks. The AGFC collects these samples regularly and has them analyzed by the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission laboratory.
According to AJ Riggs, wildlife health biologist for the AGFC, anyone who submits a positive sample will be notified via phone as soon as the results come back, so it is important to fill out all necessary paperwork at the drop-off location when you leave a sample.
“We want to get in touch with anyone who has a deer that tests positive as soon as possible so that we can make arrangements to dispose of that deer’s carcass properly and follow up with the exact location of harvest to continue tracking the disease in the state,” Riggs said. “We also can give a replacement tag to harvest another deer to make up for the lost meat.”
Riggs said the bottom half of the information card that the hunter keeps will lead the hunter to verify results for themselves.
“We will call everyone with a positive sample, but we just don’t have the manpower to call and speak to everyone with a sample that CWD wasn’t detected on,” Riggs said. “The results are posted online and your confidential code will allow you to receive your results for peace of mind.”
The AGFC collected 7,824 CWD samples last year, and 95 percent of those samples were voluntarily submitted from hunter-harvested deer.
“We had 261 positive CWD cases from those samples last year,” Riggs said. “And 96 percent of our positive cases came from deer taken by hunters.”
All CWD testing drop off locations will remain open until Feb. 28, the last day of the archery deer season.
A list of official testing locations is available at www.agfc.com/cwd as well as the latest regulations and news about the disease in Arkansas.