Arkansas has more than 3 million acres of public land for deer hunting, but bagging a buck on a wildlife management area or other public tract can be a challenge.
Here are tips from Ralph Meeker, deer program coordinator with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
• Put in the time.
Hunters should research both the size of the public area and historical harvests of both bucks and does where they intend to hunt. This will provide a rough idea of the local deer population and hunting pressure. Deer harvest reports can be found at www.agfc.com/deerharvest.
• Use technology.
Many phone apps and mapping software packages can help hunters either find and mark locations in the field or assist with navigation. Quite a few are free. Aerial images through tools like Google Earth are excellent to identify deer travel corridors, bedding areas, food plots and potential stand sites.
• Do some scouting.
Hunters who show up the morning of the hunt and expect to bag a big buck are betting against the house's odds. Getting out of the pickup and looking for cover and food deer will most likely use and how they relate to the topography of the land improves the odds.
"Even if you don't succeed this season, get out after the season is over and put in some time on areas you want to learn more about," Meeker said. "Finding deer sheds in March and April lets you know where the deer go during the season and gives you an idea of the bucks on the property that survived the previous season."
• Stay in the stand.
It may sound simple, but patience and time in the stand are two elements that separate most successful hunters from those with unfilled tags.
"I analyze thousands of deer hunter observation records each year," Meeker said. "The resulting data clearly shows that most deer hunters will arrive at their stand before daybreak but leave around 9:30 a.m. Likewise, evening hunters will arrive in their stands around 3 p.m. and leave after sunset, around 5:30 p.m.
• Hunt where others don't.
Some 87,000 hunters will be looking for a deer on public land. Sometimes finding a quiet place to hunt can be a challenge. But, according to Meeker, one-third of a mile may be all it takes to separate you from the masses and hunt fresh territory. It could be less if you don't mind a slight uphill route.
Sports on 11/05/2019