Youth Hunt

The state makes it easy for adults to introduce kids to the incomparable thrill of harvesting a whitetail deer.

Michael O. Giles

October 23, 2007 at 1:30 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Anna Arrington is proud of her first rack buck, which she harvested near Chunky.
Anna Arrington is proud of her first rack buck, which she harvested near Chunky.
In a flash, the buck charged into the herd of does and younger bucks, scattering them in all directions. The monster was furious that an immature buck had moved in on his harem.

In an instant, though, the action screeched to a halt, and the buck knew he had been had. The unmistakable metal click stopped the buck in his tracks, and fooled him into thinking that a hunter was about to lay the hammer down on him. Instead, the game camera simply caught him in the act, and exposed his presence in this territory to a young hunter.

Lane Sansing slowly scanned the woods in front of his stand for signs of deer movement. He was sure that a deer would appear any moment. The young hunter’s youthful exuberance and enthusiasm belied his deer-hunting experience.

Sansing has been deer hunting most of his life. In fact, the youngster killed his first deer at the tender age of seven, and a short four years later, he has become a highly successful deer hunter. During that time, he has honed his woodsmanship skills while hunting with his father, Dal.

Sansing was sure he’d see deer on this hunt because he had seen them many times before. However, this time he wasn’t hoping to spot any deer — he was looking for “Big Daddy,” the massive whitetail buck that had been captured on their game camera.

The trail camera had captured a monster buck all right, but the deer was coming out between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Lane was really charged up and excited when he saw the deer on film, even referring to him as “my deer” because he was so excited and confident that he would get him.

Dal, however, tried to temper Lane’s enthusiasm somewhat, due to his own lifetime of hunting experience.

“Lane, you may never see that deer again,” advised his cautious dad.

Dal knew that they had only 200 acres of land and, therefore, there was a good chance that someone else, even a neighbor, might get the monster buck. That didn’t deter Lane’s excitement and determination that the deer would be his, however.

The Sansings’ hunting spot was located near Macon, right on the edge of the famous Black Prairie land. The Prairie is well known for producing trophy bucks, but none had been harvested quite this close to their home.

This particular hunting location included a food plot that was surrounded by a pine plantation, which served as a good bedding ground for the deer.

Dal was willing to let Lane try for the big buck, but knew it would be a rare feat for anybody to harvest the buck of a lifetime after capturing him on film. The buck might have just been passing through the area.

Though they didn’t have a stand there, Sansing did construct a blind for concealment, from which they watched the food plot.

As it turned out, the blind was just the ticket. After a short wait, Lane detected movement in the timber, and got ready. In seconds, a doe emerged from the woods, and walked into the field while glancing back over her shoulder. She was followed by yet another doe.

Soon there were deer feeding all over the green field. Before long, a frisky young buck joined the does. The spike chased the does back and forth around the field in search of a willing suitor.

Lane briefly contemplated shooting the young buck. However, Dal advised him that he would never kill a trophy if he kept shooting the smaller bucks. Since he had gotten his limit last year and had killed 20-plus deer up until then, Sansing decided to hold out on the chance that the giant buck might return. Instead of shooting the young deer, he just enjoyed the show the young buck and does were putting on.

With daylight fading fast, another deer appeared in the edge of the woods. Almost immediately, a buck burst out of the woods and charged into the middle of the does, scattering the herd. As the buck stopped in the middle of the field, he was facing away from the hunters. Once he turned broadside, they realized he was a trophy deer, the one they were looking for.

Lane slowly raised his .243, centered the crosshairs on the buck’s vitals and squeezed the trigger. At the crack of the rifle shot, the buck crumpled to the ground in a heap. The monster never knew what hit him, and the celebration began for the proud father and young hunter.

The 205-pound buck sported 15 massive points and scored 156 2/8 points on the Buckmasters scoring system. This buck would provide the family with succulent venison as well as a lifetime memory.

Hunting opportunities

Thanks to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, stories like this are becoming much more common nowadays. And this is exactly what the MDWFP had in mind when they set a special youth season for deer a few years back. They hoped to spur a renewed interest in deer hunting by the next generation.

With so many other things competing for children’s time these days, the wildlife department and many hunters wanted to be able to introduce children to the outdoors during a time when the deer would not be overly wary. Their theory was to let the kids have a chance to hunt before the regular season opened, when the deer became even more nervous and skittish than they normally are.

Larry Castle, wildlife director for the MDWFP, is a big proponent of getting more youths involved.

“Youth hunting is in vogue today because we’re trying to give young hunters an exclusive opportunity to get outside and experience deer hunting with an adult or mentor, before the regular deer season opens,” he said.

In fact, they are also promoting squirrel and turkey hunting opportunities by having special youth seasons for those activities as well.

“We grew up in the outdoors building forts and tree houses and just grew up in nature,” Castle said. “Of course, we also grew up squirrel hunting and dove hunting where there was a lot of action and social interaction with friends and family.

“Our connection with nature was an automatic step to hunting and fishing because we lived outside and weren’t afraid of the outdoors.

“These days, most kids are plugged in to I-Pods, video games and the internet, and they are getting further and further away from the outdoors with each generation.”

Nationwide, hunters and fishing numbers have declined over the last 10 years by 10 percent.

“If we don’t get it turned around and get more kids involved in nature, the trend will just continue to get worse,” Castle said.

Little Annie Oakley

There was a time when deer hunting was reserved for men and boys. However, young female hunters are now becoming almost as common as young male hunters. Ten-year-old Mikayla Giles is one of a growing number of young girls who love deer hunting, and are also pretty good at it.

A couple of years ago, the youngster harvested her first two deer, and her appetite was whetted for more this past season.

During the fall of 2006, Mikayla was really primed to go deer hunting once again. In fact, she had her sights set on harvesting at least one buck, though she was looking for a doe or two as well.

“I want to go hunting five times and kill three deer,” Mikayla said shortly before the season began.

Preparations were made for the upcoming hunt, and Mikayla was excited and ready to go. Though she missed the opening youth hunt due to a gym meet, her desire was still burning strong to get that first big buck.

Our hunting destination was located near Pachuta, and conditions were optimum with the rut just kicking in.

Mikayla noticed cactus growing everywhere in the sandy soil around our hunting location. The stand was on a cactus-filled ridge overlooking a power line, thus the name “The Cactus Ridge Stand.”

Of course, she inquired as to how the cactus got there, and I was at a loss to explain why. Our host for the hunt told us that they had cactus growing on two different tracts of land, both of which had poor-quality sandy soil. Nobody knew how the cactus got started, but they were growing there for all to see.

After settling into the stand, Mikayla got her hunting gear ready and had a snack while she waited for something to appear. After finishing the snack, she got comfortable in the stand, and began to watch the power line for a deer. With the rut in full throttle, there was a good chance we would see action.

Scanning the power line to the south, we both detected movement at the same time. At first, I couldn’t tell if it was a buck or doe, due to the distance and dark shadows that the deer was in.

“It’s a buck, a good one and I want to shoot him!” exclaimed the excited youngster.

She quickly donned her ear muffs, and got ready as the buck made his way across the power line in search of the hot doe that had obviously slipped by undetected earlier.

Time was now dwindling as the buck approached the wooded edge of the power line. Once into the brush, he would be out of sight, and home free. Mikayla had already practiced this situation many times before, and had previously harvested three deer with her .223-caliber H&R youth rifle. With her earmuffs in place, she quickly found the buck in her sights and placed the crosshairs on his shoulder. Never wavering, the rack buck continued to walk toward the woods at a brisk place.

Mikayla squeezed the trigger, and the rifle roared just before the deer made it to the safety of the woods. The buck flinched, and lurched forward slightly at the sound of the shot, and bolted into the woods.

Years of experience had taught me how deer react when hit, and this one displayed one of the classic signs. Otherwise, he didn’t seem to be fazed.

Quickly making our way to the scene of the shot, I picked up the buck’s trail. Thirty yards later, we found pink blood, indicative of a lung shot. That meant the buck had surely sustained a fatal wound. Sixty yards into my search, the musty odor of a rutting buck hit me full force, and I stopped to look again.

After going a few more feet, I found the buck in his final resting place. Upon further examination, the buck had indeed sustained a fatal lung shot.

Arriving at the deer Mikayla and her proud dad were going through all of the emotions of a successful hunt, and shared the experience like only a father and daughter can.

“Yes, I’m going to have plenty of jerky!” exclaimed the successful hunter.

She had wanted some fresh deer jerky, and now she would have some of her very own. Mikayla’s Cactus Ridge buck weighed in around 180 pounds, and sported a thick 8-point rack. Many a hunter would be proud to harvest such a deer.

I for one could not have been more proud had I shot the deer myself. What better way to spend a fall day than making memories in the deer woods, while passing on our proud outdoors hunting tradition? It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Castle has also passed his love of hunting down to his own children. Both Amy and Joni Castle spent time with their dad in the woods hunting, and had every opportunity to explore and enjoy nature. In fact, Amy was only 8 years old when she harvested her first deer while hunting with her dad. Amy’s love of the outdoors has led her to seek a career in wildlife as she is just completing her Masters in Wildlife at Mississippi State University.

Particulars

The upcoming deer hunt for youths ages 15 and under will afford many children the opportunity to have successful hunts. In addition to offering the youth week to children who have access to private-land hunting, the MDWFP has also made it possible for kids from all around the state to participate on the public WMA hunts that are located within driving distance of almost everybody in our state. While most are open during the November youth season, some have slightly different regulations and dates. Check with the area managers at each location for specific rules.

In addition to the increased opportunities to deer hunt, the department of wildlife has a link on its webpage (www.home.dwfp.com) for kids in the outdoors. The complete outdoor digest is also available online at that site for further information on hunting seasons, regulations, licenses and related items.


View other articles written Michael O. Giles


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