Countdown to deer opening day

Posted: November 7, 2017 at 1 a.m.

The antlers of a buck are covered in velvet during early fall. The velvet carries nutrition to antlers as they develop. Deer rub the velvet off by mid-autumn.

It's the big one, the day when almost every hunter with a license in his pocket steps quietly into the woods.

Modern gun deer season opens Saturday in Arkansas. It runs through Dec. 3 in the deer zones that take in Northwest Arkansas. A second modern gun season is Dec. 26-28. Bucks or does may be part of the season bag limit.

Deer in the headlights

November is deer mating season, and the month motorists are most likely to hit a deer, said Joe Huggins with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

He advises travelers to be on the lookout for deer standing on road sides that might bolt into the roadway. Be especially vigilant and slow down early morninsg and evenings when deer roam the most.

Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

CWD testing

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will test harvested deer for chronic wasting disease Saturday and Sunday at several locations in the 11-county disease management zone. Results are available in a few weeks.

Northwest Arkansas testing sights include: Madison County Wildlife Management Area headquarters, Forum; Combs Store and Cafe, Arkansas 16, Combs; AmeriGas office, U.S. 62, Berryville; Osage Clay Works, Arkansas 103, Osage; Arkansas Forestry Commission, Western Grove; National Park Service maintenance shop, Marble Falls; U.S. Forest Service office, Arkansas 16, Deer.

Source: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission

There's the potential that as many as 400,000 hunters will go after deer on opening day, said Joe Huggins, hunter education coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.

"It's just a guess, but we sell about 350,000 resident and nonresident hunting licenses a year," Huggins said. "When you add in the kids (under 16 who don't need a license) and the lifetime license holders, there's a chance you could have 400,000 people out there."

Turnout depends a lot on the weather. Deer hunters like it chilly and frosty, not hot. They don't like rain.

White-tail deer are plentiful in every county, Huggins said. Bag limits are liberal again this year after the discovery of chronic wasting disease in Arkansas in 2016. The three point rule has been taken away for bucks.

Northwest Arkansas hunters can have their deer tested for the disease on opening weekend at Madison County Wildlife Management Area headquarters and other sites in the region. Testing is not mandatory. Special regulations apply for deer hunting in the 11-county chronic wasting disease zone: Boone, Carroll, Johnson, Logan, Madison, Marion, Newton, Pope, Searcy, Van Buren and Yell counties. Visit agfc.com for details.

Deer harvest totals for all methods -- archery, muzzle-loader and modern gun -- have topped 200,000 for five consecutive years. The 2017-2018 season is off to a good start with more than 28,000 deer taken so far by archery and muzzle-loader.

The majority of the deer killed is with modern gun. Opening weekend accounts for much of the harvest, Huggins said.

Rick Sayre, a deer hunter from Cave Springs, expects another banner modern gun deer season in Northwest Arkansas. He's been in the woods more than most this season, hunting almost every weekend and evenings with his bow or muzzle-loader.

"Deer are really on the move now," he said last week. "Bucks are just starting to chase does. The rut isn't in full swing yet, but it could be by opening day."

Modern gun deer season typically opens during the rut, or mating season, when deer roam the most and hunters are most likely to see them.

Sayre, 49, has permission to hunt on several tracts of private land in the region. He's seen two quality 8-point bucks, several lesser bucks and plenty of does. One of his friends killed a 9-point buck during muzzle-loader season near Centerton.

A mantra of deer hunting is find the acorns and you'll find the deer. White-oak acorns are a favorite food for white-tails in the Ozarks. Sayre said the acorn crop varies from area to area. One of his spots near Pea Ridge is loaded with acorns, he said. Others have fewer. He's also seen deer grazing in meadows.

"I think it's going to be a great opening day. It's good timing for the rut. I'm just praying for cold weather."

Earning a Triple Trophy Award from Game and Fish is a high honor for deer hunters. To qualify, a hunter must kill a deer with archery, muzzle-loader and modern gun during one season. Sayre has won the Triple Trophy nine seasons in a row. He's hoping this season will be No. 10.

Flip Putthoff can be reached at fputthoff@nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWAFlip

Sports on 11/07/2017