Just when you think you've heard it or seen it all when it comes to deer hunting, somebody comes up with a whole new twist or trick. Some folks even within the marketing industry working within the hunting sports say there really is nothing new, just simply the same old stuff, renamed, repackaged and rolled out in a new ad campaign.

Deer hunting magazines are chock-full of strategies, tactics, tips and new angles on pursuing whitetails. That is what keeps the mind active and hunters interested in loading up their gear and heading out to the woods season after season. It's also what keeps the hunting equipment retailers in business. Deer hunters are always ready to try something new.

Some of the whiz-bang gimmicks work, and some don't.

Last season brought to my attention a few new curious tactics that I had never heard of before. On top of a couple new tricks to try out, a campfire discussion of some old but quite effective tactics brought into fresh consideration are worthy of mention again.

Even seemingly radical deer-hunting tactics are simply additional tools in the trick bag. I mean even just 30 years ago, what deer hunter went to the woods with a doe bleat or buck grunt call around their neck, a bottle of super duper doe sex potion spray or a set of plastic antlers to bang together?

For those deer hunters who have tried all of these approaches and know some work some of the time but none of them works all of the time, these renamed and repackaged tactics just might work well again. Maybe it's time to dust them off and try them one more time.

Practice dog howls

If you stop to think about it, the howl of a coyote or stray dog off in the distance can stop a deer in its tracks or send it bounding out of the thickest cover. Just the whiff of a yote-poodle either wild or domestic wafting around a buck's habitat will throw up the white flags into panic warning mode.

As it were, these are the cries of nature in a natural world, so why not make the leap of application to deer hunting, whether that was really the original intent or not? If it works, why question it?

"Nearly our entire deer-hunting lease succumbed to a massive and devastating clearcut timber harvest two years ago," said John Cockrell. "The first season afterwards, the deer hunting was pretty good as the newly sprouted browse attracted many deer out in the open in relatively clear view of our hunting stands.

"A year later in our moisture-rich area in Hinds County, the rains created an unreal regrowth of briars and thick brush that no human could walk through. Sightings of deer moving about were rare except on the main roads, scalped areas used as timber loading platforms or our few planted food plots.

"One morning, a student in my machining technology course at the local community college came out to hunt with me during the muzzleloader season. We hunted all morning but saw nothing moving. I decided to take a ground stand on one end of a briar thicket, and have Woody walk in toward me from about 200 yards away.

"Then I hatched a crazy scheme to start howling out like a dog. As Woody moved through the briars, I began calling out a 'woof-woof' dog sound, as I too began to push my way into the flesh-clinging mess. It wasn't long before a buck jumped up and ran across in front of me. When the buck ran well clear of Woody, I cut loose with a load of black powder, and dropped it in its tracks."

Had the buck possessed both sides of his rack he would have been a real nice 8-point. Cockrell credited the taking of this deer to spooking it out of its bed by howling like a wild dog. To hear him tell the story in person, anyone would be convinced this story was true.

But not to be fooled himself with a random occurrence, Cockrell decided to test the experimental tactic a second time.

"The set-up was very different from the first trial," he said. "I had my son James sit in a hunting stand overlooking a small food plot surrounded by a sea of man-eating thorn bushes. I came around from the far side on another road so I was several hundred yards from his stand, but I had the wind in my face.

"I stepped off into the thicket woof-woofing all the time only to realize that James probably could not see me as the heavy cover was almost over my head. So I dialed up my cell phone and talked to him until he could see my location. I couldn't see 10 yards in front of me, but I knew something had just jumped up and was running off to my side.

"Then my phone rang, and James told me a buck had jumped up right in front of me and was running out of the thicket. I said, 'Shoot!' At the shot, James came on the phone again to tell me the buck was down. That was one heck of a shot on a running deer for a young hunter to make.

"I have to admit with a little amazement that the plot worked a second time. James' woof-woof buck had 10 points with a 16-inch spread. It was definitely one heck of a hunt."

Cast and blast

Another endearing feature of the same hunting lease mentioned in the tale above is that the property is composed of some of the only rolling hills in Hinds County. A hunter can stand on one of the long ridge tops and see clear across the "valley" to the other side, but not much at all down in the hollow. Sometimes a deer can be spotted moving on the far hillside in a little gap or open spot around some big oaks, but the brush is getting so thick that deer can move and never be seen.

This landscape layout makes for some pretty tough hunting even from elevated stands looking down into the abyss. Only a crazed hunter donned in Filson's toughest briar-proof pants and carrying a shotgun with buckshot would dare try to wade through this jigsaw puzzle of thorns and briars. So the question begs itself, how does one rattle a deer's cage to get them to move out of this mess? Then along comes one of Cockrell's college colleagues, Brent Johnson, with his new deer hunting tactic.

"Four of us including me, my son James, Brent and another college employee, Bubba Lancaster, spanned out to hunt the hills and dales for most of a half day," Cockrell said. "The weather was perfect for deer hunting, but either no deer were moving or we just could not see them in the thickets. Brent offered up an idea even I had not seen before."

Although it may not have been original, it was sheer genius.

"I had heard of this idea, but never had tried it myself," Johnson said. "I had hunted the lease previously and knew there were deer down in those briar bottoms, but there was no easy way to get to them. Even if we could bust our way into those bushes, getting off a good, safe shot would be nearly impossible. So I came prepared to drive them out using a new twist.

"We spread out a safe distance apart on top of one of the ridges overlooking one of the larger draws so we all had a safe zone of fire if anything moved. I stood at the head of the hill and started firing off bottle rockets, letting them fly down into the bottom of the hill. It didn't take long for some action either."

All of the hunters saw deer, and Cockrell scored on one.

"After the first foray, we tallied up the results. I took a very nice 120-pound doe. We saw four other deer on the run, and much to our amazement, three coyotes busted out of the brush like a covey of quail heading for higher ground. It was one of those things that if I had not seen it myself, I might not have believed it.

"The guys moved over to another hill about a quarter mile away to try the pyrotechnics again. Brent let loose with a shower of bottle rockets. We could see the smoke trail of the rockets soaring through the air then down into the briars, where the firecracker part of the missile exploded. On this run, five small yearling-sized whitetails ran out, but nobody shot because the deer were just too small. Then a second later, two more does popped out on the far hillside followed by a spike buck. They were too far off to shoot, but the rockets definitely did the trick."

The rock toss

The bottle rocket notion is really a modern application of an old big-game hunting trick used for generations out west in truly mountainous terrain. It still has plenty of application here in Mississippi. Just like tossing a lighted bottle rocket into a thicket, the same results can often be had by hurling a softball-sized rock into a buck hideout. All that is needed is an abrupt ruckus, the introduction of a strange noise, or anything that breaks the usual woodland sounds that deer are used to. An unusual sound will always get their attention.

I saw this trick used in Texas a few years ago along the top of a dry gulch. We would walk along the ridge line, and about every 50 yards or so, the guide would toss a rock or dirt clod down into the mesquite thickets. Every manner of wildlife would scatter out of those bottoms at the crashing sound of that rock bounding off other rocks and bushes. It works.

Mississippi has plenty of whitetail habitats where this ploy can be tried, even if it is just a heavy thicket alongside a road or woods trail. Creek bottoms, swamp edges, cane breaks and willow thickets are good places to send a rock flying.

If you have such a spot on your hunting property then load up some fist-sized rocks in a milk case, and strap it on the ATV as you cruise around scouting for deer. You might be pleasantly surprised at what could pop out, but have your gun ready.

Old-fashioned drives

When I started deer hunting in Missouri back in the 1970s, this was the favored deer hunting tactic of the time. It seems to have fallen by the wayside in favor of sitting in a shooting house or tree stand. Used properly and with hunter safety foremost, it can still be a very effective way to get deer moving out of heavy woods or thick bottoms.

Setting up a deer drive is easy, but running it safely can be the challenge. A drive consists of two jobs, the drivers and the standers. Don't be deceived, though. Drivers do the hard work, but get most of the close-in shots. Set out standers along a straight line across the property at a ratio of 4:1. Drivers walk right across in front of the standers, making noise and constantly yelling out their locations to one another. Drivers should be at least 50 yards apart.

Standers and drivers must pay attention to movement in the woods, both animal and man. They all should wear as much hunter orange as possible. Standers must remain still and listen for running deer staying ready for a shot. Drivers should look ahead and to both sides, but be aware that deer, especially bucks, often flip directions trying to back track. Any shot that comes must be taken with speedy but very careful deliberation. Lots of deer can be harvested by drives.

Deer hunting tactics are basically limited by hunter creativity. Over the eons of time, an awful lot of weird ideas have downed some very impressive bucks and plenty of fresh venison for the freezer. Whether it's howling like a rabid dog, firing exploding Chinese bottle rockets into dense thickets, tossing rocks down ravines or organizing deer drives, it's all about the sport of deer hunting.