So far for me, modern gun deer season is diametrically opposite from the same point in the 2019 season, and it's not good.
Apparently a few deer hunters are having similar experiences. Ralph Meeker, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said last week that he expected deer hunters to kill 30,000-35,000 deer Saturday and Sunday, the opening weekend of modern gun deer season. The tally for those two days, according to the Game and Fish Commission's online harvest table, is 28,060. That's still a lot of deer, but a few things are quite different this year.
In 2019, modern gun deer season opened on Nov. 9. The moon was in waxing gibbous phase, and it was nearly full. I hunted out of state that week and did not begin hunting in Arkansas until Nov. 12. That began the finest week of deer hunting in my life. I killed a 6-point buck on Nov. 12, a doe on Nov. 14, another doe on Nov. 15, and a buck on Nov. 16.
The moon was full on Nov. 12, 2019, and was waning gibbous the rest of that week. It was also very cold the first part of that week. Deer were active all day every day that week.
Opening day of the 2020 modern gun season opened a week later, midway into the peak period the previous year. The moon is in waning crescent phase, about 180 degrees opposite of the previous year. The weather has been cold in the mornings, and cold to warm during the day.
Two members of my hunting club killed young bucks in the morning on Sunday and Monday. One said he's seen many does but only young bucks, spikes and 4-points.
Where I hunt, deer have been active only at night this week. On opening day, I saw only a spike buck wandering about 9 a.m. I saw two deer at dusk, but it was too dark to determine sex. I saw no deer on Sunday and Monday. On Tuesday, a spike buck appeared about 7:30 a.m. Two bucks showed up at dusk a few minutes earlier than they did on Saturday. One was a 2-year-old with a promising headgear. The other was either a doe or a spike buck. They left. Two more deer showed up about 15 minutes later. One had a big body, but it was too dark to identify antlers.
The wind blew from the southwest, unfavorable for that stand. The deer were nervous, but they did not lock onto me from a fairly sizable distance. I waited until after dark to leave my stand. At the end of my access trail, I veered onto a game trail in the darkness to bypass a swampy low spot. I was pleased at how easily and quietly I slipped through the thick brush, and I smiled when I reached the small opening where my four-wheeler became disabled right about this same time a year ago.
I had to rebuild my carburetor after that debacle. It was my first time at that endeavor, and I was very proud of my success. Two weeks ago, the aging Suzuki presented an encore performance within 100 yards of where it died last year. As he did last year, Mike Romine towed it back to camp. This time I employed a professional to rebuild my carb. He said he also had to clean out the fuel tank, which contained a lot of what he called "junk."
"Today's gas breaks down pretty fast, even non-ethanol gas," he said. "Don't fill your tank. Just put in enough to last a couple of weeks so it won't have time to break down."
Additives such as StarTron and Sea Foam stabilize gasoline for a time, but they can't maintain an inherently unstable product indefinitely, he said.
The weather forecast shows an unfavorable wind for all of my stands for the next few days. This poses a dilemma. As the moon advances, deer are coming to my stands a few minutes earlier each evening, but unfair winds could compromise my success. A northeast wind is in the forecast only one day next week. I can hunt that one day, or I can take my chances and hope that time in the woods produces success.
This is opening week of modern gun deer season. It only comes once a year. Let's not overthink this. I will hunt. Something good will happen.