September is a magical time for Mississippi deer hunters.
The average daily temperature is dropping just a bit, and the first hunting seasons are opening, like dove and teal.
College football is cranking up, and the lights are on Friday nights at half the high schools in Mississippi.
Deer camp workdays are scheduled and the countdown to opening day of archery season is passing quickly. Time has become a premium, but there is a regimen bowhunters can follow to be ready for Oct. 1. This recommended schedule can have you prepared to pull the string that first morning in a tree stand.
Sept. 1: People tend to stare when you load the boat with a bass rod and a shotgun, but that is just the thicket for the first day of the month. Catch and a release a few bass and have the gun loaded with steel for resident Canada geese. When you get home, take inventory your bow and arrow equipment and accessories. Look for and replace loose nocks, old batteries in lighted nocks, or nocks that are damaged. Inspect your bowstring, looking for any sign of fraying or broken strands. Check the broad heads for anything that will alter arrow flight, and check the O-rings on deployable blades for cracks.
Sept. 2: Unless you already lift weights or work out, start working to strengthen your entire body, especially arms and shoulders. Once a regular shooting routine begins, continue to keep muscles toned.
Sept. 3: Dove season opens for much of the state today, but remember deer season begins in less than a month. Before or after the bird hunt, do some deer prep work. If you haven’t already, get the game cameras filled with fresh batteries and an empty SD card and have them hung by nightfall. Knowing what you are going to face in the field next month can be captured in the coming days and weeks. Visit the camera at non-peak times for deer movement, such as mid-afternoon. Stay just long enough to swap out the memory card and check the battery level. Deer use their nose to take stock of their surroundings and if they associate a human with a camera they will avoid the area.
Mineral licks should have been freshened months ago, but an added shot of a salt-based mineral, such as Mossy Oak’s Trophy Rock will keep the deer coming. By all means have a camera aimed at your most active lick. On a personal note, I like to put my rock-type minerals on a stump, but deer don’t seem to care whether it is in the dirt or on a stump.
Sept. 4: In that quiet time when you read scripture, read the 27th chapter of Genesis, paying attention to verse 3. This is where Isaac commands Esau “Now then, please take your gear, your quiver and your bow, and go out to the field and hunt game for me; (4) and prepare a savory dish for me such as I love…NAS).” This is the first record of sport hunting with archery equipment. Some translations actually say venison.
Sept. 5-6: This will a very busy week. The daylight period is growing noticeably shorter. Deduct a few afternoons for high school sports events and parent/teacher meetings, and the time you have to work on hunting becomes precious. Making the best of the time you have is important. Barrett Van Cleave, who has averaged almost 500 inches of antler per year (with a three-buck limit) for the past several years, shares his practice regime.
“I shoot four arrows in one set, and at least six sets total when I practice, at least every other day,” Barrett said. “I concentrate on shooting at 40-60 yards and approach the target at different angles, practicing where my arrow will exit the target. Where the arrow comes out is more important than where it goes in. Taking breaks is important because fatigue develops bad habits with your form. Your first four shots, when you are fresh, are the most important.”
Van Cleave goes on to add several tips about shooting style.
“It benefits the shooter a great deal to practice from the same stand, or type of stand he or she will be in while hunting. Nothing is worse than having an early season shot spoiled by banging the bow against the side of the stand or not being able to come to full draw because of some unanticipated obstruction,” Van Cleave said. “There is a big difference in shooting while standing and while sitting, so be sure to practice both, with a wide variety of target angles, from a few yards, to the end of your comfort range. Shooting from a blind is almost always done from a sitting or kneeling position. When using a blind, choose a stool with a back to lessen the fatigue that come with a long sit, but don’t use a chair with arms, or a seat that sags, droops or tips over when you sit at odd angles.”
Sept. 7-9: Crossbows have been increasing in popularity in recent years and in Mississippi just about everyone can hunt with one. This time of the month is perfect for tuning your bow, now that the cobwebs have been brushed away and serious practice is about to begin.
“You will be less likely to have to take time out of your hunting season for routine repairs if you spend an hour or less on maintenance during the pre-season,” said Barb Terry of 10-Point Cross Bow Technologies. “Your checklist should also include the inspection of all accessories, including arrows, for damaged, missing, and loose parts.”
Terry reminds hunters that accessories require attention just as bows and arrows. One of the most critical components or archery is range, since an accurate shot is dependent on knowing the distance to the target. If you depend on a rangefinder, make sure it is operational.
“Every year on a hunt somewhere I encounter someone who did not place fresh batteries in their rangefinder,” Terry said. “Worse still are those who failed to remove the batteries after turkey season and allowed them to leak and corrode in storage, damaging or ruining the unit. With some better models costing upward of $500 it’s a shame to lose a unit to a 50 cent battery.”
Sept. 10: Sure, there’s football on TV each Saturday, but there’s work to be done. Tractors will be busting food plots and stands will be going up. The quicker the stands go up and the plots are planted, the faster deer will adapt to seeing them on a regular basis. There is no way to avoid spreading some scent around when working on food plots, but deer are accustomed to people in the woods, marking timber, cutting wood, making noise and leaving scent. After today, you will need to be more scent conscious, as you check on the food plot progress or retrieve SD cards from trail cameras.
Sept. 11: In that quiet time when you read scripture, read Genesis 10, 8-9. This is a part of the genealogy of Noah. Apparently the animals aboard the Ark reproduced well, for this is said about Nimrod: “Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. (9) He was a mighty hunter before the Lord; therefore it is said, Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before the Lord.” What is interesting is that of all these generations mentioned in this chapter, a hunter gets credit for being mighty.
Sept. 12-16: Continue to shoot every day that you can. Choose different light situations, shadows, and unknown ranges. This is the week to hone the skills you have as an archer. Inventory your equipment, making sure all arrows and broad heads are the same weight and length. Check for loose fletching or damaged nocks. Discard old or worn parts. When shooting this week inspect your bow for any potential trouble points. Archery pro-shops are running in high gear, and getting something repaired will cost you valuable time.
Sept. 17: Opening day is two weeks away and for the first time in a while falls on a Saturday. So today is a good one for finishing up on scouting. Set the DVR to catch State at LSU, Ole Miss at home to Alabama, and USM against Troy. Soft mast will be the go-to food for most deer in the coming days. The dry, hot summer can cause many persimmon trees to cast their fruit early, yet some will remain where rains or nearby water sources allowed the tree to thrive. The dog days probably damaged ragweed and greenbrier. If the remaining greenbrier along creeks and streams is being browsed heavily, you can bet the deer are hungry. Consider taking your quota of antlerless deer in the early part of the season to reduce the stress on the remaining herd as winter approaches. Some oaks could be casting fruit by now, especially red oak. Make it a point to see if the acorns are being eaten. Squirrels and birds will be eating them before they hit the ground, an indication the fruit is about to fall.
Sept. 18: In that quiet time when you read scripture, read Mark 6, paying attention to verse 38. Jesus blessed a boy’s lunch of five small loaves and two fish and fed a multitude of 5,000, with food left over. The point is Jesus blessed the meager meal and used it for good. We as hunters can do the same by donating a small portion of the blessing we receive from nature’s bounty to programs such as the Mississippi Wildlife Federation’s Hunters Harvest or Sportsmen against Hunger.
Sept. 19-24: Concentrate this week on the lighting you may encounter while hunting. Continue to shoot the four-arrow set, but include those times when shadows and fading light might be an issue. For compound bows equipped with pins, it may be advantageous to install lighted pins. Crossbows are almost always scoped and lighted crosshair models are available, but pricey. Run the camera line once this week, entering and leaving the area as stealthily as possible. Some older bucks are nocturnal feeders.
Change the batteries in your flashlight or headlamp. Go through the backpack or fanny pack and insure the accessories don’t make noise as you walk. Keep the inventory to a minimum. Water, cord, a snack, a light, rangefinder, and ThermoCell with an extra wafer is a good start. Check your safety harness, making sure it still fits, with all the loose ends neatly trimmed.
Sept. 25: In that quiet time when you read scripture, read 1 Timothy 4, 3-5: “…men will forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. (4) For everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude.” With God’s blessing, hunt to feed your family and friends.
Sept. 26 – 30: With opening day now less than a week away, it is time to make sure you smell more like the woods. Concealment is a key to successful bow hunting. In these last hours before Opening Day consider how you will trick a deer’s three major senses — sight, smell and hearing.
Switch to unscented bath soap and shampoo. Hand lotion is okay if it’s scent free. Aftershave and cologne are taboo. Everything you will wear on morning needs to be washed in cold water and with scent-free detergent or no detergent at all. Boots need to be sprayed down and archery equipment wiped down with a clean, dry, scent-free cloth. Placing clothes and boots in a plastic tub or scent bag will go a long way in fooling a deer’s olfactory capability.
You will most likely need the ThermoCell on opening morning, so add a fresh butane cartridge and use an Earth Scent wafer. (Tip: go ahead and light the unit when you get in the tree or blind, cutting down on unnecessary movement later while the deer are moving.)
Preventing unwanted sound may be a most difficult task, especially for aging hunters. An elk guide once stopped in mid stalk of a bugling bull to remove the little zipper pull on my jacket. He said it was driving him nuts, and if he could hear it, so could the elk. Eliminate anything that is loose, or squeaks when you walk or move.
Continue to shoot a single four-arrow set every day, but put the most emphasis on the first shot. By now you should have fired 300 to 500 arrows. The equipment should be tuned and tight. If you miss a deer Saturday, it will not be the bows fault.
Your stand/blind is ready and your clothes should be bagged to avoid contaminating odors. The quiver should be filled with arrows, each the same weight and length. Batteries in the rangefinder and lighted nocks should be fresh. Someone should know where you are going and what time you are expected back. The ATV has been gassed up and checked out. Your hunting license is current and in your wallet or hunting bag.
All is set, and in just a matter of hours you’ll be in a tree, or a blind and the months and weeks of planning, practice, planting, and dreaming will come to fruition. You will be still, and become as one with nature, the apex predator awaiting the prey of choice.
Good luck, this is just the beginning.