Has it been a good deer hunting season so far?
It depends on who you ask. Statistics tell us that yes, it is a good one — so far. Those statistics are from the deer harvest report of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, one of many innovations of the computer age that gives us an up-to-the-minute glimpse of what is going on out there in the woods.
Once upon a time we had to wait forever and a day for the deer totals to be announced. Not anymore.
Comparing one hunting season to another is a little iffy. It’s not like comparing football or basketball or baseball statistics from one year to another. With hunting you have weather as a factor, a major factor.
Let it rain a bit and the number of deer checked by hunters plummets for that day. It is not that deer hide when rain comes. It is that hunters stay home or maybe hunker in camp when rain comes.
The first three days of modern gun hunting this fall were under favorable weather conditions and in much of the state very favorable. The number of deer checked on the first day were more than the previous year, and if you’ll recall, that was when an all-time record was set in Arkansas — 213,487 deer checked, well above the previous record.
But before you too-hastily conclude that this year will break that record, let us point out opening-day deer check numbers were higher in 2011 and even higher in 2010.
Opening day deer checked for 2013 — 18,903.
Opening day deer checked for 2012 — 18,110.
Opening day deer checked for 2011 — 19,262.
Opening day deer checked for 2010 — 19,624.
There were some inclement days during modern gun season in each of the previous years. We had a cold and windy snap a few days ago, holding down some deer hunting, so really, comparing the deer check numbers is far from an accurate gauge of how the hunting is going.
Wildlife biologists and many experienced hunters tell us that the acorn crop is good this year in much of Arkansas and this is an indicator that deer will be back in the woods, the hardwoods, eating acorns, a preferred food. Hunters like to set up on edges of woods and fields. But if the deer don’t come to the edges or out into the fields, the hunters don’t pull triggers.
One deer hunter in our family has a stand on the edge of a field where soy beans have been harvested and winter wheat is newly sprouted.
A pattern over several years is for deer to come out of the woods into the field in late evening to feed. Knowing about the bountiful acorn crop, the hunter gathered a sack full of acorns plus some ripe persimmons and scattered them in front of his stand.
Yes, deer came. His son killed a buck.
The opening day comparisons above showed this season ahead of last year’s first day of modern gun hunting, the year in which the record was set.
But for the first three days of modern gun hunting, the total was 38,361 a year ago to 37,632 this time.
Statistics are for conversation. Preparation and accurate shooting are much more important in deer hunting.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.