Inaccessible river bottomland attracts more deer than it does deer hunters.

And it's really no wonder because the very thing that keeps the hunters away - flood-prone hardwoods and cypress swamps full of foreboding thickets - is the same thing that congregates deer as they look for places to escape any chance of human interaction.

Old River Wildlife Management Area in Pearl River County just west of Poplarville and northwest of Picayune is actually closer to Bogalusa, La., than to either of these Mississippi towns.

In fact, it's directly across the Pearl River from the much more famous Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge on the Louisiana side.

Since there is nothing more than a 50-yard river that separates the two, there's no doubt that the big deer for which Bogue Chitto Refuge is known also spend a lot of time hanging out in Old River WMA.

This point was made abundantly clear to me several weeks ago when Alan Williams, a hunting buddy of mine, slipped out his cell phone after church to show me a picture of a deer.

Expecting to see a trail cam image of a heavily horned buck, I handed his phone back when I saw that it was nothing more than a picture of a river.

"You didn't look close enough," Williams responded while pushing the phone right in front of my face.

He stuck his thumb and forefinger on the screen and slid them apart. The image zoomed in close enough for me to make out two giant racks sticking out of the water.

"That's two bucks leaving Louisiana, swimming the Pearl River and going to Mississippi," he proclaimed. "And the good thing is I know right where they are crossing."

Sure enough, as I zoomed the image in even further, the sheer size of the racks on these two bucks made me start shaking in my shoes, as I knew we would eventually hunt the watery deer crossing.

"Scroll over a few images," Williams went on, "and watch what they do."

The successive images showed the two bucks eventually reaching the Mississippi side of the river and climbing up a steep bluff right into Old River WMA.

A friend of Williams photographed the bucks with his cell phone, the only camera he had aboard a boat he was piloting up the Pearl River when he just happened to come across the swimming deer.

So if Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge is so famous on the Louisiana side, Old River WMA on the Mississippi side should be equally as famous because the two parcels of public hunting lands obviously share the same bucks.

And a quick peak at the 2011-2012 harvest summary released by Old River biologist Josh Moree of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks shows over twice the number of deer were killed at Old River last season than just two years ago in 2009.

The total number of deer harvested during the 2009 was 36, and the total deer harvested during the 2011 season was 78. Of that 2011-2012 total, 30 were does and 48 were bucks.

To get in on some of this action, hunters can best access Old River WMA by boat. Not only does entering the western side of the WMA off the Pearl River help hunters gain access to some of the best hunting spots, it also help hunters get away from some of the crowd.

Deer frequently travel sloughs and drains that dump into the Pearl River, and the mouths of these kinds of waterways are good places to tie up a boat and go exploring. Obviously, the farther you push back into the thickest cover, the better your chances are of scoring a deer, but Williams has success hunting close to the river.

"I've been in the stand before hunting and could see the river," he noted. "As long as you can find good, thick cover and some kind of food source, you can be in business no matter how close or far you are from the Pearl."

Although some hunters use portable ladder stands with their names and phone numbers permanently written on or attached to the stands, climbing stands probably get more of a workout on Old River WMA because of the freedom they provide hunters who would rather hunt the deer than hunt spots.

But to hear Williams talk about hunting river bottoms like those found in Old River, sometimes the best stand is right under your feet.

"I can't tell you how many animals I've seen hunting along the Pearl River just sitting on a log," he said. "During the early part of the season, (if) you get much higher than 10 feet up a tree and all the understory vegetation is going to block your view."

No matter whether you choose to hunt from a ladder, a climber or on the ground, locating that stand in the right spot is going to increase your chances of seeing animals. Although you might be able to go in and pick a good acorn tree and get lucky, finding the right combination of food, thickets and trails will put you right in their wheelhouses.

Successful hunters choose to hunt on the edges of the thickets because that is where deer like to travel; choose a thicket during a scouting trip, and you'll find deer trails traversing the thickest spots.

"If you can find a spot in a thicket with trails that cross each other, you're in business," Williams explained. "And the real key to hunting these river-bottom public lands on either side of the river is to find those crossing trails close to a good water source with some big white oak trees dropping acorns on the ground."

Another trick that Old River WMA hunters use is staying put in their stands when they know hunters are moving around. It's only a matter of time before deer move in dense bottom land like this, but hunters headed out to go back to the boat for lunch or the camp for a nap push deer around.

"I've seen a lot of mid-morning deer," Williams said. "You might be itching to get down, but if you stay put you'll see deer moving when those other guys put them back on their feet."

Old River WMA isn't a place for hunters to decide to hunt on the spur of the moment. It takes a lot of time and effort scouting for the right kinds of spots, and it takes a boat for the greatest chances of success.

Granted, you have the opportunity to see some animals by hunting off some of the access roads on the east side of the property, but you stand a good chance of killing some animals if you can scout and hunt by boat.

It might seem inaccessible at first, but that's only in your eyes. Poke around a little bit with a GPS in your hand to keep from getting lost and to mark possible hunting spots.

What you're going to find is that a lot of the spots you mark are going to be right in the middle of the spots you least liked walking because what you consider too thick deer consider just right.

These public land deer just love playing hard to get.