It’ll be a three-alarm morning on Saturday when modern gun deer season opens at first light across Arkansas. That’s the number of clocks a family might set so they’re not late for this red-letter day on the hunting calendar.
The season runs through Dec. 4 in most of Arkansas. There’s a second modern gun deer season Dec. 26-28. Deer are plentiful in every Arkansas county, according to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. The outlook points to another banner deer season across the state, including northwest Arkansas.
Word from the woods is that deer mating season, the “rut,” is in full swing and could be at peak when the season opens Saturday morning. Rick Sayre of Cave Springs has been deer hunting since archery season opened Sept. 24. He arrowed a fine 8-point buck on Oct. 30 in Benton County.
Bucks are commonly seen chasing does, looking for a mate, in late October and early November. Sayre said the 8-point was traveling alone “probably looking for the dominant buck in that area to fight it,” he said.
Sayre works for the city of Highfill and has seen bucks chasing does in that area for the last week. “We’re seeing a lot of deer and they’re definitely moving around,” he said.
Hunters report the acorn crop is abundant this fall. When acorns are plentiful, especially white oak acorns, that’s what deer will key on. Sayre said he has some automatic game feeders out on parcels of private land where he has permission to hunt. Deer are totally ignoring those feeders because of the acorns, he said.
“I’ve got some game cameras out and some are close to those feeders. The only pictures I’m getting of deer are on the cameras that are away from those feeders.”
The acorn crop “depends where you are. Some places have a lot more white oak acorns than others,” Sayre noted.
Archery deer season has been open more than a month. The first segment of muzzle-loader deer season (Oct. 15-23) is over. The total 2022-23 deer harvest as of Nov. 1 was 31,708. Last season’s deer harvest (2020-21) was 181,379 for all seasons combined — archery, muzzle-loader and modern gun.
Arkansas’ record deer harvest was in 2012-13 when 213,487 deer were checked by hunters. In 1938, the first year harvest data was kept, the tally was 208 deer.
Total deer harvest county by county for 2020-21 includes: Benton, 3,000; Carroll, 1,070; Madison, 2,789; Washington; 4,362; Crawford, 2,808; Sebastian, 1,604; Franklin, 1,846.
The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission harvest report is updated each time a hunter checks a deer. See the harvest report at agfc.com in the deer harvest reports and strategic management plan section.
All counties in northwest Arkansas, north central Arkansas and most of the River Valley are in the Game and Fish chronic wasting disease management zone. Hunters should check CWD regulations regarding transportation of deer at agfc.com/CWD.
Some trophy bucks have been taken so far with archery and muzzle-loader. At Hook, Line and Sinker fishing and archery store in Bella Vista, clerk Chip Wiseman showed a photo of a hunting friend who, with a crossbow, shot a buck with massive antlers on the outskirts of Bentonville. It’s hard to tell in the photo exactly how many antler points are on the deer, but Wiseman counted 18 for sure.
That buck was feeding on acorns. “Find the white oak acorns and you’ll find the deer,” Wiseman said.
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Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed are those of the author.