Fall camping under the stars, with all its perks, can be very enjoyable

Spending time outdoors is usually best when the temperatures are pleasant, which means two seasons in Arkansas. The balmy days of fall are perfect, as are the first warm weeks after a long winter. Some discover the pleasures of winter camping are worth the effort due to the variety, lack of pests and other factors. Overall, though, the first crisp days of fall are one of the most preferred times to enjoy camping.
Weather is generally more stable and predictable in fall, with fewer storms. The air is usually less humid, with mild days and an evening chill that makes a fire feel delicious. The color of the fall leaves is a big plus, too. Fishing is good before winter, with almost every species stocking up weight for colder days. Hunting seasons are available as well, and some folks combine hunting and camping into a joint effort.
Camping in the fall can be fun in an RV or trailer, but there’s nothing like getting fully immersed into the cool night air into a tent or hammock. You’ll probably need more insulation than you think stay warm, but it’s worth the effort to sleep under the stars. You will need to wear insect repellent too, especially if using a hammock. The pests can actually bite through the nylon material—and additional barriers are required.
Use a repellent containing DEET as the main ingredient in sufficient strength and it  should prevents with ticks, chiggers, flies, gnats, and others  pests. Some formulas are based on pythrethins, made from chrysanthemums. Summer ticks and chiggers are at highest populations after summer but they are more easily avoided than mosquitoes. Wear approved repellents according to directions and avoid high grass, downed logs and plants along trails where ticks and chiggers await to hitch a ride with a host.
Target natural foods, funnels as deer magnets
It’s late, the deer season is upon us, and you have not made preparation as where to you might hunt. Perhaps you just got permission, or managed to get a few days off from work. What is the fellow to do when he has no feeders spraying corn or no food plot drawing deer for miles?
In a nutshell, he should do what hunters of done eons. He will first scout the area and locate two things. He wants to locate natural foods that are drawing deer, and he wants to look for features in the terrain that tend to push them into predictable travel routes, often called “funnels,” regardless of other factors.  
Foods are fairly easy to find. Look for oaks and other mast-bearing trees what are dropping nuts or foods. Some browse like beautyberry and honeysuckle; greenbrier and other plants are highly relished by deer. They also love apples, fall pears, permissions and other fruits often found around old homesteads and forgotten places in the woodlands.
Funnels are more bit difficult to discover. Looking at maps can help as can a sky view on Google Earth. Often, it’s a matter of seeing the deer respond to the terrain. Deer may be funneled by creeks, woodlots, a cutover, patches of brush, fences, roads, crops, farm equipment and even traffic.
Developing an idea of where a deer might be or where he might go is a slight advantage for any hunter. The man who knows where deer can find food in the woods knows a place begin to looking one. If he also knows the travel route deer make take from location to another, he has an advantage. His knowledge allows him to take a stand in a spot where deer have regularly passed by on their travels.
As you hunt from year to year, make yourself aware of longtime trends in the woods. Make notes on what foods are available and when, and which are preferred by the deer. Make harvest notes on stands and locations, and record sightings in the woods of deer traveling specific routes. Eventually you’ll be the old sage in your camp who knows deer where are likely to be, and why.
Try a tent camp for deer hunting
Granted, the permanent deer camp with bunk rooms, a kitchen and dining room is the most common arrangement for Arkansas deer camps. They may range from portable buildings to old houses, ancient pole barns and tin sheds, or even luxurious cabins and chalets for the wealthy. Deer camp with a tent can be lots of fun, though.
First of all, it’s portable. The camp can be transported and erected wherever you choose. I have fond memories of such camps in other states, and here in Arkansas on lands where permanent buildings had not yet been constructed.
Such a camp can be comfortable, too. The tent should be plenty big enough for the hunters. A two-person tent is designed to hold only two persons for sleeping, but it allows no room for sitting, lounging, cooking, bathing, changing clothing or cleaning guns. It’s wise to use a tent made to sleep at least eight folks as a hunting camp; the extra size will be appreciated as the week progresses.
Camping in a tent can be cold in bitter weather, but there are ways to fix the problem. The easiest is to wear heavier clothing, invest in heavier bedding and wear more layers when it’s really cold. Add more a larger insulation layer between your bed and the ground and it will make you bed warmer.
A great way to make a tent really warm is get a tent with a roof opening and add a tent stove that burns wood and vents through the tent’s roof. This drives up the price of the tent and often requires an “outfitter” quality rig. But, it can be worth the trouble and durable enough to last the average guy for decades.
The tent camp is a good option for a hunter searching for the one camp he wants to commitment his efforts toward for years to come; he can do that without the benefit of full accommodations if he’s willing to give up a bit of luxury.
His tent can be fitted with awesome cots and sleeping pads which rival a bed at home. Heat can come from a wood stove or even a propane space heater but caution must be used to insure adequate ventilation to reduce the danger of carbon monoxide in any enclosed space where carbon fuels are burned, even campers and cabins.
A portable toilet or even a plastic bucket with a liner and some kitty litter solve the issue of the call of nature in the middle of the night. This step is plus when it’s really cold, or when women or children are involved. It just makes it much simpler for everyone.
Any tent rugged enough to handle the elements and not leak can be used but it’s always better to buy more tent than you anticipate. That includes size, ruggedness, its quality, the ability to handle all seasons and any other personal factors or preference.
The bottom line is that the tent, at times, can be a great option for deer camp and other hunting suit. At least, it should not be ruled out, as it can provide access to hunting where cabins don’t exist, roads don’t travel, and camper trailers and RV’s can’t go.
Bear survey includes opportunity for public
Just about every hunting camp in bear territory has a tale or two to tell about a mischievous bruin finding its way into their feeder or trash bins. Over the years, those stories have expanded from the Ozark and Ouachita mountains into the southern half of the state, prompting Arkansas Game and Fish Commission biologists to keep a watchful eye on growing bear populations throughout Arkansas. As part of this expanded monitoring effort, biologists are asking hunters and outdoors enthusiasts to help record bear sightings through a simple online survey on iNaturalist.org.
The Arkansas Bear Survey listed on iNaturalist provides credible observation and or photo documentation of black bear locations within the state to help biologists expand their collection of data.
Myron Means, large carnivore program coordinator for the AGFC, says game camera footage as well as increased awareness of bears has enabled more public participation in data collection in recent years.  
“We receive images and reports of bears in feeders all the time, and we know the bears are expanding into new areas,” Means said. “This survey will help us gather location information as well as some basic biological information such as sex, recruitment and relative age class.”
Participating in the survey requires a free account with iNaturalist.org, which takes less than five minutes to set up. Once you have established an account, you may enter sightings as you come across bears in The Natural State.     
“Ideally, the best information will be photos that are accurately date stamped and in electronic format where they can be uploaded to the iNaturalist.org website for further review,” said Mark Hooks, regional biologist supervisor for the AGFC at the Monticello Regional Office.  “Actual observation information without a picture is also useful, particularly if you can provide the approximate location and date of that observation.”
For more information on how to participate in this survey, contact Hooks at 877-367-3559. (AGFC Press Services)
Arkansans harvest record number of alligators
In two long weekends, Arkansas hunters harvested 94 alligators during the 2017 alligator hunting season, eclipsing the previous record of 66 taken in 2016.
Mark Barbee, AGFC biologist at the Monticello Regional Office who coordinates the annual hunt, says the increase is largely the result of increased permits being available to hunt.
“We’ve had steady interest in hunting (alligators), and our population is in good shape,” Barbee said. “We’ve been able to increase the harvest over the years to give more hunters opportunities to participate in the hunt.”
Barbee says 152 permits were available for the 2017 season, of which 101 were available for public draw.
“The other permits are given to some large land holders with exceptionally high alligator populations to be able to eliminate nuisance issues in a controlled hunt,” Barbee said.
Although no one checked in an alligator topping the current state record of 13 feet, 10 inches, many 11- and 12-foot alligators were checked during the season.
“Typically you’re going to get a bunch of six- to nine-footers as well,” Barbee said. “But I’ve seen reports of couple of really good 12-footers.”     
The southeast zone was responsible for 50 alligators harvested, while the southwest zone had 44 harvested animals. The harvest is typically fairly consistent, with zones trading places in total number of gators checked, depending on the weather and flooding.
Barbee says that although nuisance calls were lower this year than in the past, he doesn’t think it is the result of the population declining from the harvest.
“Our surveys still show plenty of alligators,” Barbee said. “I just think people are becoming a little more used to seeing them in the state. It used to be that if someone saw an alligator, they reported it, but now they’re a little more tolerant of them. Some people even see it as an opportunity to hunt them if they draw a private and at-large tag.” (AGFC Press Services)

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