For current conversation topics, we have Razorback football and deer hunting.
Let’s focus here on deer hunting. Please.
Bow season for deer is under way, a special modern gun hunt for antlerless deer is coming up soon, then there will be muzzle-loader hunting before the big event — modern gun hunting.
How are things shaping up? This answer depends on who you talk to, of course, but it’s safe to conclude that this year’s deer hunting will be unusual. It will not follow patterns of recent years. If you think you know how the deer act in your favorite hunting spot and what they will be doing when you go out there with a weapon, better think again.
Some informative words came forth the other day from Cory Gray, deer program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
"First we had the drought, then we had (Hurricane) Isaac. Wind blew a lot of green acorns off the trees, and it wasn’t shaping up as a good mast year anyway."
Those green acorns hit the group in early September, and they will be gone by the time modern gun season rolls around in November. If fall food, the mast Gray mentioned, is short then feeding habits of deer will be altered to some extent.
This could be a plus for hunters, at least in many areas of Arkansas.
Plentiful mast like acorns in recent seasons has kept deer back in the woods instead of along edges and in fields where they are more exposed to hunters. Here in 2012, the mast is short, and deer have to share it with turkeys, squirrels and other wildlife, not to mention wild hogs.
Could this send the deer out in from of your stand and my stand? Hopefully, we can answer yes a little later.
Realistically, however, the uncertain and unsettled habitat conditions at present mean we should get out and scout more than usual.
The early reports from bow hunters are a mixed bag.
Some bow users are seeing deer in good numbers. Others are not. The running totals on the Game and Fish’s harvest report appear to be running a little behind last year, which ended up being the second best deer hunting season ever. It came within a few hundred of grabbing the No. 1 spot.
Last year, too, was the first time Game and Fish had the tools in place to put this instantly updated account of deer checked by hunters online for everyone to see.
Incidentally, those deer checked for Sept. 1-14, before bow season opened, came from special urban deer hunts in several communities.
Will deer feeders be more of a factor this season if acorns are scarce?
You could guess yes on this one, but feeding corn, rice bran alfalfa pellets or whatever in hopes to draw a deer within range is debatable. A lot of Arkansas hunters use feeders, even with corn selling for $10 or more per 50-pound bag.
Something of an unknown factor on this topic of fall food for deer is browse. This means the tender green tips of bushes, plants and small trees that deer eat in the warmer parts of the year.
Drought may have cut down on the availability of browse in spring and summer, but there is a possibility — just a possibility — that the September rains spurred vegetation growth in deer food plants just like it did the grass in your lawn.
The rains may have also brought new growth in the shooting lanes you hoped would be clear when gun season arrives.
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 e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.