Each year about this time, when the weather gets frightful and a favorite hunting season is near its end, the rumors and the fussing crank up.
That’s all right — for the most part. It goes along with our intense interest in hunting.
Current hot, or lukewarm, topics are (1) robo ducks, also known as spinning wing decoys, (2) modern and high-tech muzzle-loading guns and (3) too many deer, both alive and being killed.
Yes, these same issues were being kicked around last year and the year before.
Arkansas duck hunters are sharply divided on the issue of spinning wing decoys, those battery operated gadgets designed to lure wary ducks close enough to shoot.
A few years back, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission banned spinning wing decoys in anticipation that other states in the Mississippi Flyway would follow suit. This did not happen. So the ban was lifted on the premise that it was unfair to restrict hunters in our state when neighboring states did not have a similar rule.
The Game and Fish folks tell us that there is no firm evidence that spinning wing decoys adversely affect the duck populations. True, many hunters don’t like them. Also true, many other hunters love them.
At present in Arkansas the individual duck hunter has the choice of using spinning wing decoys or not using them. This likely will not change anytime soon.
Once upon a time, muzzle-loading rifles used in Arkansas hunting were replicas of the firearms that Davy Crockett and his buddies were efficient with.
You poured black powder down the front end of the gun, followed it with a cloth patch of wad then you put in the bullet and tamped all down with a ramrod. Next, you fitted a percussion cap on a nipple at the breech then you aimed and fired.
With some practice, shooters became adept at the process, and many of them loved it, loved the smell, loved that cloud of smoke and loved to tell about killing a deer with a muzzle-loader.
Science and technology stepped forth. Black powder guns were improved, telescopic sights were added, and today nearly anything goes as long as the powder and shot is put in at the muzzle.
A key factor is the number of deer killed with these whiz-bang modern weapons has not gone up sharply.
What has risen in Arkansas is the number of deer overall checked by hunters. At present, the state total is somewhere around 185,000 and appears on track to possibly reach or pass last year’s all-time high of 213,487.
The Arkansas deer herd is not threatened by the increased take, say biologists with the Game and Fish Commission. The biologists also tell us that the buck-doe scene is improving noticeably with hunters taking these in about a 55 bucks to 45 percent does ratio.
Deer are not equally spread around the state and never will be. Habitat remains more of a factor than hunting successes. In some parts of Arkansas there are still too many deer despite the increased limits.
The state season limit for deer is six. Too many? No evidence of it. Too few? Maybe, but we are not hearing a proposal to increase it — at this time.