Deer hunters have their first opportunity to hunt with modern firearms this weekend through Wednesday during the private land antlerless only modern gun hunt.
This is the second act of the annual Arkansas deer hunting extravaganza that began Sept. 23 with the opening of archery season. Muzzleloader season, the third act, will run Oct. 21-29, followed by the statewide youth deer season Nov. 4-5.
The headline act -- modern gun deer season -- opens Nov. 11. Its duration depends on the deer management zone.
The private land antlerless only modern gun hunt is an opportunity for private landowners and lease members to reduce the number of antlerless deer on their property.
Reducing the number of does might be desirable for a number of reasons. First, it can reduce competition for food. That is especially important on hunting clubs that lease industrial pine forestland. These properties generally contain limited and marginal natural forage, which limits average body weight and antler growth.
Reducing the number of deer obviously increases the amount and quality of nutrition available for remaining deer.
Secondly, reducing doe numbers can balance the buck-to-doe ratio on your property. That can compress the breeding period and intensify rutting activity. Fewer does can influence bucks to be more visible during the daytime and intensify rutting activity. All deer hunters like that.
For an antlerless reduction program to succeed, landowners and lease clubs must actually kill enough does to matter. Killing one or two is inconsequential.
If you don't want to use a modern weapon, you can still hunt with a bow or muzzleloader. If you want to earn a Triple Trophy Award this year, the Private Lands Antlerless Hunt can give you an extra five days to try to bag a deer with a muzzleloader. Time isn't an issue for bowhunters because their season runs through Feb. 28.
The Triple Trophy Award is a distinction bestowed by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to hunters that kill a deer in a given season with archery/crossbow, muzzleloader and modern gun.
Except in deer management zones 1-2, button bucks count against your season limit of two bucks. Examine a deer's head closely. A doe head is sleek and straight. A button buck has prominent nodes in front of the ears that interrupt its symmetry.
You must also brace for the possibility that a mature, trophy buck will offer a ridiculously easy opportunity that you will have to decline.
You can, of course, kill a buck with a bow or crossbow during the private lands modern gun antlerless only season. Document an arrow kill as thoroughly as you can. Photos are good. Video is better. Don't clean the crossbow bolt or arrow.
Even though the youth deer season follows, the private lands antlerless only season is a great time to take a child hunting. It eliminates the decision that some create by passing on a doe in hopes of getting a buck.
This year, a few members of the Old Belfast Hunting Club are taking a different twist on the private land antlerless only modern gun hunt. We are hunting exclusively with 20-gauge shotguns. This is Mike Romine's idea, because he's got a really cool Savage 20-gauge slug gun.
I'm using a Browning BPS Deer Hunter with a rifled, cantilever barrel and a fixed 4x32mm scope. It is very accurate at 100 yards with 250-grain Hornady SSTs in a 2¾-inch hull, and also with 3-inch Federal Premiums with 273-grain Barnes Expanders. The lighter Hornady loads are a lot easier on the shoulder and easier to manage for accuracy, and you only lose about 100 feet per second in muzzle velocity.
At 150 yards or less, that slight difference does not justify the pain, and there's little chance of me shooting farther than 150 yards, anyway.
In Arkansas, most hunters would do fine hunting exclusively with 20-gauge shotguns. Buckshot is ideal for hunting in thickets, especially on crossings at close range when running dogs.
Rifled barrels and sabots have improved the accuracy of slugs dramatically. Back when we only had smooth bore barrels, slugs were about as accurate as blowing a gumball out of a pipe, but now they perform as well or better than a .30-30 at levergun ranges.
Sports on 10/15/2017