Hunters kill more bucks on opening day than on any other day of the season. More than half the annual buck harvest occurs on the season's first three days, and the lion's share of those deer bite the dust in those crucial first few hours of that all-important first day.
If wildlife officials had their way, every buck opener would dawn clear and cold, with no wind and a light dusting of snow on the ground. I can remember only one time in the past quarter-century when that actually happened, and hunters killed oodles of bucks when it did.
Monday's conditions weren't quite ideal. Temperatures were cool but not quite cold, and except for some frost the ground was bare. By all indications, though, the hunting was good. And for once, weather was a positive factor.
It wasn't the only one, though.
Mating behavior, which peaked earlier in the month, apparently was still going strong. Rutting bucks are pretty reckless, a trait that certainly works in hunters' favor. Several hunters I interviewed said the bucks they shot were either chasing does or had does with them.
This year's mast crop also played into sportsmen's opening-day success. White and chestnut oak acorns were abundant this fall, and savvy hunters focused their efforts on areas where those species dominated the mix.
We won't know until mid-December whether the weather, the rut and the acorn crop combined to dramatically increase this year's buck kill. Headed into the season, DNR officials predicted a harvest of about 60,000 - roughly the same as in 2011.
Biologists are usually conservative with such estimates, and unless I miss my guess they factor in the probability of less-than-ideal opening-day weather.
My gut feeling is that this year's harvest might push into the 65,000-70,000 range.
That's only a guess, and it's a guess based on intuition rather than evidence. But that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.