LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) - Modern gun deer season opens this weekend and anticipation builds by the hour. Get license, got gun, got ammunition, got the orange vest and cap, got a good place to hunt. But are you fully prepared?
A quick check list before you leave home is wise. Start by reading. Read the current 2012-13 issue of the Arkansas Hunting Guidebook. It's the annual publication of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, and it's free at any license dealer, on the Internet at www.agfc.com, any AGFC office and many other places around the state. This is the rule book in easy to read form. Know what the rules and limits are for the place you will hunt.
Second, check the required items – current hunting license, hunter education card if you were born after Dec. 31, 1968, permit if it's required where you intend to hunt, hunter orange cap and vest or jacket.
Third, make a mental or written list of the assorted items you need to take either in a pack or in your vehicle. Give some thought to how you will get a deer out of the woods to a vehicle if you kill one.
Here are some practical points passed along by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission staff: Rope, knife, whistle, bottled water, sensible snack food. You'll build on this starter list according to your own habits and needs, taking into account where you will hunt and how far you'll be away from the vehicle.
The rope can be fairly light, not something to pull a tractor with. Rope is extremely handy for getting a deer out of the woods and for field dressing a deer carcass. History and fiction books show pioneers and Native Americans walking through the woods with a deer slung across their shoulders. Forget it. It's much more feasible to tie the rope around each rear leg of a dead deer, step into the loop and drag the carcass. With two people, it's much less of a physical chore.
Knives are extremely varied in size, shape and function. You've probably got one on hand that will work fine. Sharpen it. If you don't know how, get someone qualified to do it and to teach you. This knife doesn't have to be Bowie in size. Fixed or folding blade is your choice. The cutting you will need to do on a deer carcass can be handled with a three- or four-inch blade - again, a sharp blade.
The whistle is for signaling. Yes, we've heard of deer hunters blowing a whistle to momentarily freeze a deer, but the suggestion here is to help communicate with a companion or two in the woods. It's also for emergency use. Three blasts on a whistle, three shots from a gun are both universal emergency alerts for help is needed.
Don't go into the woods without a bottle of water in a pocket. Hot, cool, cold weather doesn't matter. You need a drink of water during the day, even a morning, of deer hunting. This water can come in handy field dressing a deer, too. A small amount can help clean things. Twelve to 20 ounces of bottled water should be enough to carry along, but have some more in the vehicle.
Snack food is a personal choice, but again, be sensible. A bag of potato chips isn't a likely choice, but a stick of jerky and some peanut butter or cheese crackers are commonly used. Apples, bananas, oranges and tangerines are also popular among Arkansas deer hunters.
A small first aid kit is suggested. A few Band-Aids, some adhesive tape, gauze pads and a few antiseptic wipes are the basics. Wasps, yellow jackets or hornets can pop a deer hunter unexpectedly, so a gauze pad soaked in household bleach and secured in a small, tightly closed empty medicine bottle is good to take along. All this can fit in a small pouch easily carried in a pocket.
Make a plan before you leave for the hunt. Going alone? Leave a timetable and instructions both at home and on your parked vehicle under a windshield wiper blade. Give an expected time of return. If you are going with one or more companions, a plan can be made just before walking into the woods. Follow the plan. If you change locations, tell your buddies and don't expect them to guess where you have moved. Cell phones are wonderful for deer hunts as well as everyday life. If one doesn't work in your remote area, try to come up with a plan to reach a signal - top of a hill perhaps.