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Bugging Out in Swatt'n'saw

Mosquitoes thicker than deer, bow hunters at Wattensaw WMA

Bugging Out in Swatt'n'saw
Wallace said one of the challenges of hunting Wattensaw early in the season is dealing with hordes of mosquitoes. (James Overstreet photo)

HAZEN, Ark. -- “The mosquitoes are bad in the woods … horrible,” said James Wallace.

Wallace, a member of Shelby Bow Hunters Association was hanging his clothing to air outside the camp house that has been headquarters to the 14-member bow hunting club since 1986. He had taken a week vacation to hunt the first days of bow season in the Mike Freeze Wattensaw Wildlife Management area near Hazen.

It would have been a great vacation, if not for the flying vampires.

“After climbing into a tree, before I could turn my ThermaCELL on his morning, they were biting me through my shirt,” Wallace said.

Click the image to see photos of Bugging Out in Swatt'n'saw

There are three things you can count on in October on the Grand Prairie in eastern Arkansas, the soybean harvest, mosquitoes, and bow hunters taking advantage of opening week in Wattensaw, one of Arkansas’ historic bow hunting areas.

Bordered by the White River to the east, this bottomland Arkansas Game and Fish property is a haven for bow hunters. With the exception of a few days set aside for permit only hunting with a modern rifle or muzzleloader, Wattensaw is bow hunting only from Sept. 28 to Feb. 28.

There are 14,419 acres of timber, primarily oak and hickory, 96 acres in streams and 113 acres in ponds and lakes. There are approximately 270 acres of old beaver ponds, 2,024 acres of old fields managed on a rotational basis by controlled burning, bush hogging, disking and planting.

The river, sloughs, beaver ponds and surrounding rice fields also make it a haven for mosquitoes during the often warm days of early bow season. More than one camp has been broken in the middle of a warm night, in response to the intolerable conditions created by hordes of unbearable mosquitoes.

With temperatures reaching the mid-80s, the designated camping areas in Wattensaw were nearly deserted, save for three old campers void of occupants, and two fishermen sitting in lawn chairs, watching bobbers on one of the small lakes.

But there are always men like the 32-year-old Wallace willing to bare adverse elements in the deer hunting world. Wallace appeared to have several thousand acres and the clubhouse to himself.

Wallace admitted conditions were far from desirable.

“It’s a little too warm for sure and I’ve only seen three deer in three days,” he said. “All of them were right at dark yesterday, but there’s a big cold front coming, and hopefully the deer will start to move.”

Originally invited as a visitor to the camp by a friend from work, Wallace said he liked that the camp consisted of primarily bow hunters. He added he had rarely hunted with a gun since he was 16 years old.

“Our camp has 14 members, ranging in age from their early 20s to early 70s,” he said. “I learned so much early on about deer hunting from some of the guys in camp ... especially some of the more experienced guys.

“The biggest deer in camp last year was killed by our eldest member, a big 12-point. The older guys in camp still use climbing stands.”

There’s a plaque on the wall in the camp house commemorating the biggest buck and heaviest doe killed every year. The award is entitled, ‘If It’s Brown, It’s Down.’ Wallace said early in the season he will shoot anything that comes into bow range.

“A big doe, any legal buck … doesn’t matter to me. It’s been a few months since I’ve hunted and I’m ready to shoot something to knock off the edge. We believe in harvesting does, we know it’s important to help manage the deer herd.”

When asked about the advantages or challenges of hunting a public area, Wallace said, ”The camp property sets on only 1.5 acres, but we are surrounded by thousands of acres of public bow hunting land. The downside is trying to get away from other hunters and the dadgum mosquitoes.

“There’s only one piece of bow hunting equipment I have more important than my broadheads … that’s my ThermaCELL.”

Go to 2013 Deer Camp

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