Fifty years ago, if you walked into deer camp wearing camo clothing topped by an orange vest and cap, you probably would be an instant laughingstock.
And the chances of you or some of those hee-hawers around the campfire of getting a deer would be slim.
Comparing 1962 deer hunting in Arkansas to that of today is little short of amazing, particularly to those who weren’t around a half-century back.
In 1962, John F. Kennedy was president. Orval Faubus was governor of Arkansas. Football Razorbacks and their followers were optimistic and for good reason. Hunters killed about one-tenth – repeat, one-tenth – as many deer as they do in Arkansas today.
A generalized portrait of that 1962 deer hunter shows him, since far fewer females hunted deer then, to have 12 days of deer season. He probably wore jeans, an old shirt of some sort and a jacket that also served in yard work and making a quick trip to a grocery.
He did not belong to a deer club. If his hunting was in South Arkansas, it may have been on timber company land that was open to anyone. If in his home area, he knew whose land he could use and whose was not accessible. Purple paint on trees and posts? Silly idea.
The hunter carried a .30-30 lever action rifle with open sights if he was typical. Other popular choices were the .30-06, usually in bolt action, and a shotgun loaded with ball and buck, meaning a slug load in the chamber and two buckshot loads in the magazine. A few hunters had 2-, 3- or 4-power scopes on their rifles.
If the ’62 hunter used a bow, it was either conventional or recurve. Compounds were in the future, and crossbows were novelties.
A deer within range meant something under a hundred yards. Deer were found in woods and on the edges of woods, although farm fields were in transition from cotton to soybeans. Rice was on the upswing, but winter wheat had not arrived significantly.
The deer hunter of 1962 worked on the ground, not up in the air.
Stand meant an area, not a device fastened to or leaning on a tree or even a free-standing platform. You did not sit on your stand unless it was on a log for a brief rest.
If the deer hunter was in a camp, he probably slept in a tent, using a cot or sleeping bag on the ground. He didn’t have electricity in camp, and cooking was over an open wood fire or on a propane-fueled stove. After dark, light was by gas lamps, kerosene lamps or the campfire.
Microwave oven in 1962? What would they think of next?
It is only a guesstimate, but the 1962 deer hunters in Arkansas had maybe a hundred thousand whitetails to seek, not the million or more of today. The deer had to have horns unless the hunter was an outlaw to be scorned by nearly all other hunters. Horns meant spikes (two points) or forkhorns (four points) were legal targets.
Deer season was Monday through Saturday the second week of November and again in early December. Just ahead would be the two-day “Thanksgiving” hunt, meaning the Friday and Saturday after Turkey Day. This late-1960s expansion also were termed the ”kids hunt,” since youngster were out of school.
When the 1962 deer hunter was successful, he showed off his prize.
Taking the deer to a check station meant driving to one or two places in a county. The old stratagem of tying the deer across the vehicle’s hood had gone out of favor by ’62, but many a hunter with a pickup truck propped up the buck’s head in the back so people could see it.
Unmeasurable is the effect of cigarettes smoked on deer stands – more prevalent in 1962 than in 2012.
Women in camp? People wearing orange? Stinkum in spray cans? Hunter education cards? A statewide six-deer season limit? “You’re making these up, aren’t you?” the 1962 fellow could ask.
Joe Mosby is the retired news editor of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and Arkansas’ best known outdoor writer. His work is distributed by the Arkansas News Bureau in Little Rock. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.