George Arrington scoured the woods looking for the flick of a tail, a twitch of an ear, or the glint of an antler, anything resembling a buck during the 2012 youth deer season. Deer started moving in to feed near his stand, intensifying the young hunter’s excitement.
He watched as does and a young buck fed and cavorted in a carefree manner. Obviously, they didn’t know hunting season was back on and harvest time was at hand.
Then it happened, a buck appeared like an apparition, seemingly materializing from thin air, and George’s young eyes spotted him first.
“I see a buck, and I think he’s a shooter,” he told his dad.
“No, I don’t think he’s a shooter,” Lamar Arrington said. Seconds later the dad saw the buck just as it strode out into the patch. He immediately re-evaluated his stance.
“Get your gun ready because that’s a shooter,” dad said, but he didn’t need to.
His young son already had his .243 up was just waiting on the word.
While his dad had been watching the does and a young buck, his son’s keen eyes had spotted antlers glistening through the timber and he knew that the hidden buck was a shooter; his dad just hadn’t seen him yet.
The buck whirled at the shot, and disappeared out of sight. Minutes later the father and son were on the trail of the mortally wounded buck and found him just outside of the patch. The 180-pound buck sported a tall 8-point rack and was a trophy for the excited youngster.
Young George Arrington’s size and age might lead one to underestimate his abilities and hunting prowess, but he is already a veteran. He has harvested many does and even a few trophy bucks. He is an avid sportsman and the early youth season allows him and other aspiring young hunters around the state a chance to harvest deer while the animals are still relatively calm.
Once the regular firearm season opens, it gets tougher. Hunters flood into the woods causing many deer to become nocturnal, rarely showing themselves during daylight hours.
Youth gun season for deer starts Nov. 9, 2013, and affords youngsters 15 and under the opportunity to get outdoors and experience the finest hunting this country has to offer, right here at home. Whether they want to harvest an antlerless deer, a trophy buck or just take any buck, the opportunity is much greater for them during this early season hunt.
Deer hunters head to the woods with rifles the weekend before Thanksgiving, which always coincides with the opening of regular firearm season for deer. That’s Nov. 23 this year, but hunters have plenty of opportunities earlier in the month with a variety of weapons. Add in the youth season, and November gives the whole family an opportunity to harvest deer, renew old acquaintances and celebrate with friends and family.
Archery and Crossbows First
Easing up the tree without making a sound was imperative for the avid bow hunter, since plenty of deer were within earshot. Randy Thompson didn’t want to spoil their afternoon feeding time and alert them to his presence. Once situated safely in his lofty perch, Thompson scanned the woods for deer and potential shooting spots, mentally noting his killing range before the moment of truth came.
Thompson listened intently as the soft rustling of leaves directly behind him signaling a deer’s approach. Moments later, using his peripheral vision, he detected a buck moving behind a seasoned oak tree and he slowly pulled his bow to full draw and waited for the buck to emerge.
The rest was easy. The hard part was getting to that point, in the right place at the right time. ...
Thompson has been bow hunting since he was 14 and has become an accomplished archer and bow hunter. He appreciates every opportunity to hunt but he’s especially fired up about bow hunting in the fall bow season before the roar of the rifles and shotguns fill the woods.
“I love being outdoors and hunting deer with a bow, and killing bucks especially during bow season,” Thompson said. “I’ll start scouting and locating bucks during the early part of fall and then try to keep up with them through the archery season.”
But that’s easier said than done. There’s more to bowhunting than just pulling back a stick and string and twanging an arrow, and Thompson aimed to find out just how far he could go in the art and science of bow hunting. He’s been successful with it. Locating deer and bucks in particular is hard enough but to locate and harvest a quality buck with a bow is an even greater challenge.
“There’s a lot more to bow hunting than just shooting straight,” said Thompson. “You need to be a good woodsman and be able to learn the lay of the land, find the buck sign and know where the acorns are falling, among other things.”
Locating a buck, he said, is just a start. Then you have to pattern him and learn his habits and keep him from patterning you. That’s why it’s absolutely critical to take advantage of every opportunity you have oncw you locate a trophy buck.
There’s a good probability that you’ll only get one opportunity to harvest that wise old buck with a stick and string.
Thompson is one of a new breed of young hunters who employ a wealth of knowledge gleaned from magazines, videos and all manner of high tech gear and information previously unavailable to hunters. In addition to spending time in the woods he utilizes everything in his bag of tricks.
These days this die-hard successful bowhunter also has a relatively new weapon in his arsenal, a game camera.
“Game cameras are an essential tool now,” Thompson said. “You might find a real good looking spot and never see a deer. If you have the game camera out you can cut down on a lot of wasted time. A game camera plays a big part in my hunting now for sure.”
“Venture into his den or bedroom and he’ll bust you just from a whiff of your scent, or blink of an eye. Even if you just walk through undetected and leave your scent it’s like a 911 emergency warning call to a buck: ‘Leave immediately, warning, hunters are nearby.’”
Thompson plans his hunting trips based on photos from his game cameras. He may have multiple cameras out, and switch them from spot to spot until he locates an area with lots of deer or finds one with a good buck frequenting the area.
“While I’m hunting a particular stand or buck, my cameras will be scouting other locations for me also,” Thompson said. “And that keeps my scent down and allows me to scout those areas every day with a minimum of intrusion into their territory.”
Last fall Thompson located several bucks and concentrated on one in particular.
“I started out following some deer back in September and was really excited about my chances,” said Thompson. “After bow season opened I started hunting specifically for a buck, but waited for just the right opportunity to hunt one particular stand and buck. Once I had the opportunity and everything was right I went to the area and climbed up into the stand.”
Leaving nothing to chance Thompson’s passion drives him to be the best he can be and he utilizes every tool at his disposal. “I hunt by the wind all the time and won’t hunt a stand unless the wind’s right,” he continued. “And I believe in the Thermacell, and wouldn’t hunt without one.”
Thompson was brimming with anticipation when he finally got settled in the stand but his excitement was tempered somewhat as the afternoon passed without a glimpse of a deer. With the day fading fast his hopes were slowly dwindling until …
A twig snapped and suddenly the afternoon went into high gear.
“I looked down and he was right under me,” Thompson said. “He glanced up and looked towards me and then put his head down and started eating acorns and walking straight away, and then took a left turn and paralleled me. I was afraid I was letting him get away.”
With the sun dipping below the horizon and the last rays of daylight fading fast Thompson came to full draw at 21 yards.
“I had one small opening to shoot through so I let my arrow fly and it went straight to the kill zone but I didn’t hear a thing, nothing like the thwack you usually would hear when you hit them,” he said.
Thompson was in dire straits, thinking he’d missed, when he heard something not too far from the shot site.
“I heard it again and just took off down that tree and found him about 12 steps from where I’d shot him!” he said.
Thompson had made a liver and lung shot and only the fletching and knock was sticking out of the deer. His patience, tenacity and woodsmanship skills had paid off with his best bow kill buck ever, a 200-pound, tall-racked 8-point.
Early Primitive Weapons Season
Mississippi has an abundance of deer, with many areas bordering on overpopulation. Biologists know the key to control is maintaining or increasing the harvest of antlerless deer. The problem is that many hunters will not kill a doe when they’re buck hunting or hunting during the rut. As a solution, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks established an early antlerless deer-primitive weapons season, which this year is Nov. 11-22.
It is the one primitive weapon season that will not be affected next year when the law changes to allow regular guns in primitive weapon seasons on private lands only.
With it, hunters are able to harvest does, achieve management goals and fill their freezers with the succulent venison long before the rut starts, when spooking a buck is a concern for most hunters. More than a few hunters have taken advantage of the early antlerless season to do just that.
Walter Ridinger, of Meridian, is one of the hunters who likes getting a crack at those antlerless deer and plans to take advantage of the opportunity.
“I like to go ahead and get a doe and get my meat early and the early season primitive weapon hunt allows me to do that,” said Ridinger. “I like to eat the meat and I like to get my sausage and then I’ll get down to serious business when I’m looking for a buck later in the season, especially during the rut.”
Still others like to carry their bows or crossbows during the early primitive weapons season and there’s plenty of room and deer to allow for all comers. It just depends on which flavor you like, but there’s a deer season for just about anybody during November.
Anticipation started building deep within James Patrick Nolen on a past opening day hunt for deer during the firearm season. The avid hunter was joined by his grandsons Joe and Mike Giles “up home” at the old homeplace in Webster County and excitement filled the air as they quietly approached their stands.
Nolen was perched up high on the Levee Stand and Joe and I were situated on white oak ridges about a quarter mile to the west way before the crack of dawn. The bountiful white oaks were bearing profusely and acorns littered the ground all around, and kept raining down.
The sweet aromatic scent of the wet, decaying, white oak leaves and acorns wafted along a gentle breeze and heightened our senses even deeper. I had found 75 to 100 buck rubs on the ridge where I left my younger brother Joe and I’d hoped that he’d kill his first buck. I’d been scouting while squirrel hunting and found two white oak ridge’s chock full of acorns and buck rubs.
My stand sight was situated to the north of his about 300 yards and it was a mirror image with over 125 buck rubs surrounding my portable Baker tree stand. My stand was on a peak of the ridge that overlooked a hollow with a small dry creek bed running just below. The tension was building and my imagination was running rampant as I imagined the possibilities of what might happen.
Bam, bam, bam! The tailgates of several trucks slammed shut about a half mile away on the lower road and shortly several packs of Walker hounds were bawling and barking as they hit the ground running to the south, hot on the trail of a deer. Just after day break I heard a shot on the next property and several more followed as the dogs pushed the deer off into the distance.
Tick-pow! A shot rang out near Joe’s position and then there was only silence. A few minutes passed and I heard deer running from his direction, stopping just over the rise. I raised my Remington .30-06 and got ready as two wide-racked bucks popped over the ridge and ran to within 60 yards of my stand, pausing an instant at the crest of the ridge. I centered the crosshairs on the nearest buck and squeezed off a shot. Both deer shot out like a bolt of lightning, straight towards my stand.
They didn’t know where the shot had come from and they were running wide open directly towards me. “Tick-pow, pow, pow, pow” the rifle roared as they came under my stand as I fired lead in their direction. I’d emptied my clip and couldn’t believe I’d missed but they’d run clean out of sight with nary a sign of a hit. Deflated I just hung my head in disgust and stared down at the sandy creek bed below.
But wait, what was that bright red spot on the middle of the sandy creek bed? Could it be? Yes, it was a bright red splash of blood. I got back to the ground as soon as I could and trailed the buck over the next rise and found my first trophy buck 75 yards away. I quickly field dressed the buck, and then went to pick up Joe.
Arriving at his stand I found that he’d also killed a buck so we drug him to the road and got our Grandfather and his truck to carry them back to camp. It only took an hour or so to get the two bucks out of the woods and to the skinning rack.
“While y’all are cleaning them I’m going back to the Levee Stand,” Pawpaw Pat said. It was about 10:00 a. m. and we didn’t think much of it but we understood. About thirty minutes later all heck broke loose down on his stand.
“Tic-Pow, tic-pow, ka-pow, wap!” The third time was the charm as his third bullet had obviously struck pay dirt. Three rack bucks tried to cross the 1/4 mile long broom sage field and he’d shot the last one.
A few minutes later we were dragging Pawpaw Pat’s 8-point buck to the truck. Arriving back at the skinning rack we had a celebration like we’d never experienced below. Three family members and three bucks harvested on opening day no less. We’d harvested the bucks on the first day of our Thanksgiving hunt and made a lifetime memory and started a family tradition in the process.
The first firearms seasons for deer begins Nov. 23, and provides all hunters the opportunity to harvest a deer and enjoy a tradition that runs back to the days when our forefathers hunted the first wild deer. Whether you want to hunt with a stick and string, a crossbow, primitive weapons, or traditional rifle or shotgun, there’s no better time than November, harvest time in Mississippi.