To properly spot your game, you can see more by looking for less

The average hunter spends years learning to spot game and properly identify animals and birds in the field. It can be critical to make a positive identification on ducks, geese and other waterfowl—or even judge the antlers on a buck’s head. There is a difference in seeing the game and a full identification.
It’s interesting that most novice deer hunters, youngsters or adults, seem programmed to look for a complete deer. They have a photo from a magazine in their brain and seem to be searching for a match. Failing to see complete picture, they not may perceive that they have seen anything, if they have.
One of the first lessons a young hunter should learn is to look for parts of the quarry he’s after, not just the entire animal. This includes looking for anything that doesn’t belong in his vision. The shine of an antler, the flick of an ear or tail, or even the horizontal line of a deer’s back stands out when most lines are vertical. Any motion in the woodlands should be checked for its cause.
Those after squirrels will see more if they’ll focus on looking for motion of a shaking limb, along with patches of fur, bobbing tails and other bits of squirrel bodies seen from a distance.
Regardless of the game you’re after, your first vision of it is likely to be an incomplete image unless you’re hunting in wide-open county where animals suddenly appear as a whole picture as they come over the horizon or up out of a draw.
Ironically, hunters often believe that binoculars are best suited for use only when hunting in open country. The magnification and focal length of binoculars can actually help hunters see more clearly in the woodlands, though. It can have the effect of seeing through brush, helping locate and judge deer before they make the decision to shoot.
Safety is another reason why binoculars are preferred for hunters. They allow hunters to see better, and are safer than a rifle’s scope to make a positive identification on another hunter. The scope will work, but when it’s sitting on top of a loaded rifle, it’s not really a safe option.
Finally, binoculars can be an affordable option. The rule of thumb is to buy the best you can comfortably afford. You likely never hear hunters moaning about paying too much for good glass, but know that it is possible to spend several thousand dollars for the best.
Try some 8x35s for a stand in the woods or maybe some 10x50s for hunting fields, power lines and open areas. Zoom binoculars are nice for some applications but not really necessary. Better to spend money on quality than gadgets. Keep them clean, keep them handy and use them to help you spot more game, even in the thickest woods.
Understanding optics
Before you decide on a scope or some binoculars, it’s important to understand the numbers associated with their components. These numbers are actually measurements, and can help owners understand the capability of the optics in the field.
All scopes and binoculars will have at least two numbers; some will have three. The information is always listed the same way. The first number is the “power” of the glasses. It is the magnification, which it makes the image appear to be six, eight or 10 times larger or closer.  With a pair of 8x35 binoculars, the image is appears to be eight times larger or closer than it is.
If there are three numbers in the description, such as 3-9x42, then the first two represent the range of adjustable optical zoom, which this case would be from 3-to-9 power. Scopes are available with powers up to 24 and more, cost rising quickly with more magnification. Light transmission suffers with variable power lenses. A fixed power will always be brighter in the same quality scope or binoculars.
The last number listed for optics is the diameter of the front, or objective lens. Larger lenses allow more light and “see” later in the day. There are limiting factors for them, however. They require more height to mount and may be too high for most shooters to use without padding their buttstock to put their face and eye in the proper position. If the cheek and face are not solidly on the stock, accuracy cannot be attained.
If the shooter must raise his face off the stock to “see” through the scope, his scope is not mounted properly and he will shoot well below his potential for accuracy. Obviously, a “big scope” doesn’t make one better a shot and could actually have the opposite effect.
For my money, a 3-9x12 scope from a quality maker has always been enough for my needs, although I do have one 12-power scope that came in a trade with a 22-25 years back. If it’s not a sunny day, I can’t see the dot well with all that power.
For many years, a 4x scope was considered the standard optics for rifles used in the woodlands, and some chose lower magnification. I have a 30-30 with a 1.75-power scope it has worn for years, and it’s perfect in the thickets.
If you understand the optics numbers you can buy what you need, and that will help you become a better shot and hunter. That is really the ultimate goal.
Taxidermists, vets offer voluntary CWD testing
Since Chronic Wasting Disease was discovered in Arkansas in February 2016, biologists have collected thousands of samples from deer and elk taken by hunters, from targeted animals showing signs of the disease and from road-killed deer throughout the state. In addition to samples taken to establish the disease’s spread and prevalence, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is offering a convenient way for hunters to have their deer tested for CWD at participating taxidermists and veterinarians.
“The AGFC’s main focus is on the area of the state where we know CWD exists and determining the outer edge of its spread, but we have received calls from hunters in all parts of the state who want to know if their deer has CWD,” said Cory Gray, manager of the AGFC’s Research, Evaluation and Compliance Division. “We do have a few more options in place for that to happen this year.”
Gray and Jenn Ballard, the AGFC’s veterinarian, reached out to taxidermists to collect samples last year from hunters turning in heads for mounts.
“Most deer turned in to taxidermists are going to be older age-class bucks, which typically have the highest prevalence of CWD of any segment of the population,” Gray said. “So this was a good source for us to look for the disease throughout other portions of the state. This year, we’ve worked with taxidermists so that hunters can get a CWD sample taken from any deer, young or old, buck or doe.”
Gray says the added locations of taxidermists and veterinarians throughout the state also offer more places than the Commission can man throughout deer season to make it easier for a hunter to turn in a sample.
“Participating veterinarians may charge a fee to pull a sample, but we’ve worked out a system with the taxidermists on the list to pull samples free of charge to the hunter,” said Gray. “We are still finalizing some contracts with taxidermists, so be sure to check the website for updates to the list.”
Hunters going to taxidermists or veterinarians should call ahead of time for the shop’s hours. If the location is closed, hunters should preserve the sample by placing the head with three to four inches of the neck attached in a cooler with ice. The head also may be frozen, but should be allowed to thaw before presenting it to the person taking the sample.
Gray stresses that heads and samples from deer taken in the 11-county CWD management zone must stay within the zone, so hunters interested in having their deer tested should plan ahead to find which sample site best fits their needs.
“We also will be manning 17 free CWD testing stations on the opening weekend of modern gun deer season,” Gray said. “If someone wants to wait to have their deer tested until then, they can freeze the head, then let it thaw and bring it to one of these stations.”
Gray says the AGFC-manned stations will accept any deer for testing, whether it was harvested inside or outside the CWD Management Zone.
“No matter which method you choose to have your deer sampled, you’ll receive a card with your test sample number and a web address to see your sample results once they’ve been processed,” Gray said. “Results should be available within two or three weeks of the sample being collected.”
Hunters submitting any samples that turn up positive will be notified immediately by the AGFC. Biologists will work with them to collect and dispose of any meat from the infected animal and reinstate their game tag if possible. (AGFC Press Services)
Hunters, trappers: Get free use permit
With many hunters making their way to the woods this weekend for the deer muzzleloader season opener, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission wants to remind all hunters who are visiting wildlife management areas to get a free General WMA Use Permit through the Commission’s license system before hunting or trapping.
The permit replaces the previous Sweet 16 WMA Permit and the Bayou Meto Boating Access Permit. It does not grant any special privileges but is required on all WMAs throughout the state.
“The General WMA Use Permit is simply a way to measure how many people are using the wildlife management areas throughout the various hunting seasons and offer them opportunities to complete surveys on their hunting experiences,” said Steven Fowler, assistant chief of wildlife management for the AGFC. “This data will help us focus future management strategies as well as purchases and enhancements to wildlife habitat where hunters will be able to use it.”
Fowler says another benefit of the permit is for the AGFC to begin building a database of contacts, so that when regulations or management decisions impacting a particular WMA or user group are announced, biologists have a way to get the message to the public.
The permit may be obtained online at, at any license vendor or by calling 800-364-4263. It can be added as a code to your existing license or obtained on its own. (AGFC Press Services)
Nature center plans nights of frightful outdoors fun
The outdoors shouldn’t scare anyone, unless it’s all for fun. That’s what the Gov. Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center has planned for its 15th annual Boo on the Bayou scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
Dawn Cook, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission natural resources program technician at the nature center, said, “It’s been an awesome event and it’s just gotten bigger every year.” As many as 6,000 visitors from throughout Southeast Arkansas have attended over the two nights leading up to Halloween, she said.
Eric Maynard, the AGFC’s assistant chief for Nature Centers and Regional Education Coordinators and in charge of GMHDRNC, said, “This year, our entertainment will be more prominent.” He said rather than placing the disc jockey/emcee in the back of the facility parking lot as they’ve done in past years, the D.J. will be centralized in the middle of the center’s parking lot with more activities going on around him.
Look for dance contests and prize giveaways throughout the evening, including some that will be spur-of-the-moment at the D.J.’s whim, and “just more fun stuff this year,” Cook said.
Of course, a major annual attraction at Boo on the Bayou is the haunted nature trail.
“The Haunted Trail is always real popular,” Maynard said. “In the last few years we’ve also been doing a Spooky Maze for our younger kids. Our games are kind of unusual, too, because they are nature center-related, like having a ring toss on deer antlers, Skee-Ball rolled into duck decoys, a frog toss—not with a real frog, of course. We have shooting games like a rubber duck shoot and a Daisy BB gun range to shoot BBs.”
For the first time, Boo on the Bayou has a presenting sponsor. Maynard said Jefferson Regional Medical Center has stepped into the role and will have employees volunteering each night helping run games, overseeing the inflatables and giving out candy. Maynard said the event typically requires 70-80 volunteers to help make it run smoothly.
Boo on the Bayou’s hours are 6-9 p.m. both nights. The event is free. Free parking will be available across from the Regional Park softball complex, and city buses will ferry event-goers to and from the nature center. The nature center itself will be closed, as all the Boo on the Bayou activities occur outside. Attendees are encouraged to come in costume.
The Gov. Mike Huckabee Delta Rivers Nature Center is at 1400 Black Dog Road in the Pine Bluff Regional Park, just off the Martha Mitchell Expressway (U.S. Highway 65B) and east of the courthouse and Lake Saracen. Regular operating hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. The center is closed Monday. (AGFC Press Services)

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