Here’s an idea: Look for bucks in small places
We’d all love to have several thousand acres to hunt, but it’s just not affordable for everyone. Most hunters are crowded onto small leases with too many hunters. Others may have to settle for hunting on public lands and deal with the crowds there.
Instead of looking for a big hunting lease, you might be better off talking to a neighbor who has 40 acres of woods or thicket, or even a pasture with some thick brush around the edge. One of the best spots for a big buck is a patch of sumac in a pasture, and it needn’t be huge. A thicket the size of a living room can be a hideout.
When the shooting starts in the woodlands, it’s not unusual for bucks to become nocturnal. This helps them survive; hence, they may bed down during the day in places where they will not be discovered. Sometimes, they hide very close to our homes and businesses.
I’ve been doing some carpentry work recently, and have been amazed at how many deer I spotted while hammering, sawing and sanding lumber. They seemed oblivious to the sounds of me working. But when I took a few steps toward my truck they scattered. Something told them I might be up to no good. One was a seven-point buck. I was only two miles outside the city limits.
A few years back, a bow hunter shot a really nice buck in the thicket behind the drug store on South Martin Street in Warren. It was within a quarter-mile of several restaurants and a grocery store. All manner of human traffic passed the perimeter of this buck’s bailiwick every day. Most never dreamed it could hold a decent buck.
Deer can hole up in a tiny patch of sumac, a thicket of briars or some other bit of cover. They quickly learn where humans travel, avoiding those travel routes as much as possible. They don’t always plunge deep into the woods. In fact, the opposite is often true.
Years ago, I hunted with the Oakdale Club west of Warren. We were amazed to discover a nice buck was living right behind the dog pens. He avoided being seen by hunters by staying almost under their feet. He could hear them snore at night!
If the deer seem to have disappeared from your woods, take a few minutes to think about all the little patches of thicket, sumac and tangles that are large enough to hide a buck. Be sure and check the ones close to camp, too. And don’t be surprised if a bruiser buck comes bounding out when you approach from downwind.
Glass such spots with good binoculars from downwind, looking for antlers turning back and forth in the sunlight. Big bucks hide and react to hunting pressure but they don’t leave. In fact, they are often right under your nose. You just have to find them, slip close enough for a good clean shot and these bucks can be wearing your tag this year.
When possible, put the sun to your back
The gunslingers of the old West used the tactic, and so did the Red Baron. They positioned themselves with the sun to their back so their adversary would be facing the sun, and it gave them an advantage.
Deer see much better than humans, so it’s wise to use every advantage to overcome these odds. Even with full camouflage, deer will see movement instantly.
No animal or bird can see as well when looking into the sun, so the tactic works regardless of what species you’re hunting.
When stalking squirrels, pay attention to the sun’s direction. Squirrels can’t smell us, so we can use the sun without considering our scent, and the light helps us better see squirrels in trees.
Position your morning and afternoon deer stands so that approaching deer have the sun in their eyes. It’s a small thing, but it could be enough advantage to keep them from spotting you till you get a shot.
Sunshine on the hunter’s face causes ducks and geese to flare away, so set up with the sun to your back or side when possible. Remember, birds always light into the wind and your setup must allow them to do so comfortably.
Christmas ideas for outdoor enthusiasts
The perfect gift for the person who has everything is something in which to store his gear. If the outdoor person in your life seems to have all the gear and gadgets available, consider buying them something in which to store or transport their equipment.
This could include a gun safe, gun cases for travel, racks to hold guns securely in ATV’s and vehicles or perhaps a tool box for their vehicle, boat or ATV.
Gear bags are another gift most will appreciate. Deer hunters need a pack to take to their stand. Duck hunters will get a lot of mileage from a bag designed for use in the blind. Target shooters will enjoy a bag to carry gear to the range.
These are good choices for the person who seems to have everything they need to pursue their sport. The following are some suggestions for gear every outdoors person should have. Check this list carefully before abandoning the idea of buying them outdoor gear:
• Anglers—rod cases for travel, a fish-cleaning table, an electric filet knife, lure assortments, a GPS for their boat, cold-weather clothing or a quality life jacket.
• Deer hunters—good binoculars, a quality sheath knife, a good pocket knife, scope covers, rifle sling, a spotting scope, a knife-sharpener like the Work Sharp, a day pack or larger backpack, good boots, cold-weather clothing, underwear, socks or caps.
• Duck hunters—camouflage life jacket, dry-storage box, ammunition, cold-weather clothing, wool socks, caps, and gloves. They also need good waders, items for their dog, a Thermos, a gun-cleaning kit and a good pocket knife.
• All—Everyone needs several ways to make fire. These include lighters, ferro rods, Wet Fire tinder and storm matches. All outdoorsmen also need a good flashlight. Check out the aluminum AA-size units now available.
• Survival—a compass, GPS, one-man shelter, first-aid kit, water purification tablets and freeze-dried meals are handy if needed, and take up little space.
Motorists: Be on lookout for deer on highways
LITTLE ROCK—It happens to hundreds of Arkansas drivers every year—a collision with a deer.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission advises drivers to be on the lookout for deer along roads, especially after dark; if a deer appears in front of your vehicle, do not swerve; and when you see one deer, more are likely close by.
So, what can you do to stay safe during peak deer times?
• Slow down, if you are driving through an area with deer—and this means most of Arkansas. Leave a few minutes early if you are driving after dark.
• Always wear a seatbelt. It’s the law, and most severe injuries in deer-vehicle collisions result from failure to use a seatbelt.
• Watch for the shine of eyes along the roadside and immediately begin to slow down.
• Use your high beams whenever the road is free of oncoming traffic. This will increase your visibility and give you more time to react.
• Pay attention to caution signs indicating deer or other large animals. These signs are specifically placed in high-traffic areas where road crossings are frequent.
• If you’re on a multi-lane road, drive in the center lane to give as much space to grazing deer as possible.
• Never swerve to avoid a deer in the road. Swerving can confuse the deer on where to run. Swerving can also cause a head-on collision with oncoming vehicles, take you off the roadway into a tree or a ditch and greatly increase the chances of serious injuries.
Deer are unpredictable; one that is standing by the side of the road may suddenly leap into the roadway without warning. If one does move into your path, maintain control and do your best to brake and give the deer time to get out of your way. Don’t rely on hood whistles or other devices designed to scare off deer. These have not been proven to work.
If you do collide with a deer or other large animal, call emergency services at once if injuries are involved, or local law enforcement if no one is injured but damage has been caused to your vehicle. Never touch an animal that is in the roadway. Give the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission a call at 800-482-9262 to report the road kill. Report the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible.
Dawn and dusk are the times you are most likely to find deer along roadsides. Deer breeding season runs from October through December, and during this time they are highly active and on the move. This is when deer-vehicle collisions are at their peak.
Though deer may wander into city neighborhoods, they are most frequently found on the outskirts of towns and in wooded rural areas. Deer almost never travel alone. If you see one deer, others are probably nearby.
A frequent question to the AGFC is, “If I hit and kill a deer on a road, can I keep the deer for meat”? The answer is yes, and it does not count on a hunter’s season limit. (AGFC Press Services)