The .243 has been zeroed, and the Mossy Oak shirt, jacket and pants, with his gloves already in the pockets, are clean and hanging together out in the garage — wrapped in a garbage bag with a fresh pine limb. 

There’s even insulated coveralls just in case it’s as cold as the forecast holds for Saturday.

“Think the boy is ready to go hunting?” said Ronnie Williams, the father of little Zack, 10, who will take a rifle to a deer stand for the time in his life this weekend. “He has been meticulous in his preparations. I guess in all those years of going to the deer camp with me, he was watching and learning.

“I just wonder who he was watching,” Williams added with a big grin. “I only wish I was ever as prepared as that little boy is right now.”

Saturday is a big day for a lot of little boys and girls in Mississippi, the opening of the gun season for youth. Only children aged 15 and under can shoot deer with a regular firearm for the next two weeks.

Robert and Zack Williams, of Florence, will join about five more sets of parents and kids at their camp in Copiah County.

“It’ll be a big time; we always make sure of that,” Robert Williams said. “We are a family-oriented camp anyway, so we always have our children around. Even the members who don’t have little ones (under 15) participate.

“They will come and hunt with other children, either bringing some guests or taking a child of a member with more than one (eligible) youngster. We have fun.”

After Saturday, youths can continue hunting with regular firearms through Jan. 31 in the Hill and Delta Zones, and through Feb. 15 in the Southeast Zone.

Their limits are one antlered buck per day, up to three per season. There is no antler size restrictions placed upon youngsters. They can also shoot antlerless deer. There is no daily limit on antlerless deer, but the season limit is five.

“We usually take them to shooting houses over food plots so they will see plenty of deer, and likely get a shooting opportunity,” Williams said. “That gives us a good chance of eliminating a few does early, which is part of our management objective, and also serves to leave plenty of deep woods for our archery hunters to use.”

Going primitive Monday

More doe-harvesting opportunities begin on Monday, when the special early primitive weapon season opens on private lands in the Hill and Delta Zones (not in the Southeast, however).

This is the last remaining season on private lands limited to primitive weapons, and it is only open to antlerless deer. New laws passed in 2013 go into effect this season allowing hunters to use weapons of choice on private lands in any primitive weapon season that starts after Nov. 30.

That means that during the regular Dec. 2-15 primitive weapon season and the late extended primitive weapon seasons Jan. 22-31 in the Hill and Delta Zones and Jan. 22-Feb. 15 in the Southeast Zone, hunters on private lands will be able to use their regular firearms.

For at least one hunter, William Fincher of Madison, that change makes no difference.

“I’ve fallen in love with my .45-70 and it’s practically all I hunt with now during the gun season,” Fincher said. “No reason to change, is there?”