Orange hunting coats and hats will add to the colors of the autumn woods Saturday when modern gun deer season opens at daybreak across Arkansas.
The season runs through Dec. 5 in deer zones 1, 2, 6 and 7, which takes in most of Northwest Arkansas. There’s a second modern gun deer season Dec. 26-28 and a private-land antlerless only modern gun deer hunt Dec. 29-31.
Bucks and does are fair game.
Complete season regulations are in the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission 2021-2022 hunting information guidebook available at sporting goods departments, or at agfc.com.
Arkansas’ total deer harvest has topped 200,000 for the last few years, except the 2019-2020 season when the harvest dipped to 188,151. Flooding during the modern gun hunt contributed to the drop, along with a massive acorn crop that reduced deer movement. When there’s plenty to eat, deer don’t roam far.
Hunters hit a record harvest last year of more than 214,000 for archery, muzzle-loader and modern gun seasons combined.
Deer hunters including Rick Sayre of Cave Springs thinks this season’s harvest could top that. Sayre has hunted mostly in Benton County so far during archery and muzzle-loader seasons. He’s also got hunting spots in Washington and Newton counties.
“It’s looking real good. I’m seeing lots of good deer and a lot of big racks,” he said. “I hope some cold weather sticks around. That last cold front really put deer on the move.”
Sayre has seen those heavy-antlered bucks and some quality does with his own eyes, but also has pictures of them on game cameras he’s set up at his hunting spots.
“Some of those big bucks are out in broad daylight,” he added.
Older bucks often wander mostly at night and may rarely be seen.
“I think this is going to be a great season for people,” Sayre predicted. “I don’t know if I’ll get one of those big deer I’ve been seeing.”
Sayre has won the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Triple Trophy Award for 17 seasons in a row. Game and Fish offers the award to hunters who kill a deer with each hunting method: archery, muzzle-loader and modern gun. Spending lots of time hunting is key in a Triple Trophy quest, Sayre said.
“Last year was tough. I hunted nearly every day, and it was still tough,” he said.
There were lots of acorns, so deer didn’t have to roam far to find enough to eat. That means they’re less likely to cross paths with hunters. The acorn crop is heavy again this fall, he said.
So far during this year’s archery and muzzle-loader deer seasons, hunters have bagged 29,186 deer, the Game and Fish deer harvest report says. Archery opened Sept. 25 and runs through Feb. 28, 2022. The first segment of muzzle-loader was Oct. 16-24. A second muzzle-loader segment will be Dec. 11-13. Arkansas’ archery deer season is one of the longest in the nation at more than five months.
Modern times are the “good old days” for deer hunters in Arkansas. Deer are plentiful in all 75 counties. Today’s harvest numbers are a far cry from Arkansas’ first recorded deer season in 1938. That year only 203 deer were checked statewide. The harvest didn’t break 100,000 until 1987. Twenty years ago, the harvest was 150,279 deer.
Here’s hoping for a safe and successful deer season across the land.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at email@example.com