For most Mississippi deer hunters, the approaching weekend is their final one for the 2017-2018 season, a last shot at getting a trophy buck or to add some doe meat for the freezer.
The odds on success would appear to be on the latter, but, as one hunter learned this week, there’s always a chance encounter with a trophy buck. He knows right where he’ll be sitting Saturday and Sunday.
“I was hunting Wednesday, hoping to get a doe to have processed; I don’t have any jerky yet,” said Jamie Watson of Canton. “I was in a stand where I had been seeing does back while I was rack hunting. I sat there all morning and never saw a thing. Then, that afternoon, around 5 p.m., a mix of about a dozen does and yearlings walked into the field.
“While I was scanning them to pick out a doe without yearlings or at least one with the most-grown yearlings, I saw all of them turn and look back up at a thicket. I turned my binoculars up the field and couldn’t believe it. There was a nice buck chasing a doe. Before I could get my gun up, she took him back in the thicket and they never came back out.”
The hunter was stunned.
“Our rut peaked in late December and they quit chasing does by the new year,” Watson said. “I guess there were a few does that didn’t get bred last time and they are recycling. I’m hoping he’s still around that area and she’s still hot. I might get my third buck.”
“Those does are going to still be there, and I’ll get one or two of them,” Watson said. “But, I’m going to give him every chance to make another mistake, and this time I will have my gun ready.”
The season ends Wednesday, Jan. 31, in four of Mississippi’s five deer zones — Southwest, East Central, Northeast and Delta. Only the Southeast Zone will remain open, and it will be for legal bucks only for all but youths aged 15 and under hunting on private land.
Mississippi’s regular gun season ended on Jan. 17 in all zones, but the extended season for primitive weapons and archery began Jan. 18. The state allows weapon of choice (i.e. centerfire rifles) for hunters on private lands.
These are some reports gathered since Wednesday around Mississippi:
North Delta: James Young of Senatobia said finding a trophy set of antlers could be tough, “especially if you are looking for them on a buck’s head. A lot of our bucks in Desoto and Tunica County and inside the levee have already dropped their antlers. I saw two this week that had already shed one side, and I saw a deer that I thought was big enough to be a buck without either side.” He said that hunters will have to concentrate on hunting food sources, “so if it’s warm, forget it. They won’t move.”
Northeast: Clyde Thomas of Columbus said cold weather is needed if anyone wants to find a big buck. “They were moving all day, every day when it was so cold and icy two weeks ago,” he said. “This week, not so much. I have been seeing plenty of does and young bucks, but nothing that I wanted to shoot. I killed a 145 and a 140 earlier this year, and I’ve killed two does so I’m only looking for bigger bucks. I don’t like my odds.”
East Central: This is another area where a second round of re-cycling does might be found. “I did see a buck walking a scrape line last weekend, and he was stopping to sniff the air several times, lips curled like he was trying to get a whiff of an estrus doe,” Tony Reed of Brandon said. “I’m limited out on bucks, and was hunting for does. Unfortunately, my son, who has not killed a buck, was in a different stand in a different area. He was buck hunting, and covered up with does. I was hunting does and didn’t see one.”
Southwest: Finding a doe shouldn’t be a problem, at least that’s what Janice Pierce of Natchez reported. “My family is on a freezer-filing mission now that the bucks have disappeared, and we got five last weekend,” she said, referring to her family’s success at their Jefferson County lease. “This year we decided that my husband and oldest son, who bow hunt a lot, would try to get a doe or two early, but we would hold off does during the early gun season to see if that would help our buck opportunities. It did, sort of. There’s five of us and three killed decent bucks of at least 140 inches. Now we just need to get some venison any way we can for our extended family, friends and a few church members who just haven’t been able to hunt this year due to unfortunate circumstances.”
Pierce urged all hunters, statewide, to consider taking at least one doe to give to a charity, like the Mississippi Wildlife Federation’s Hunters Harvest program that works through food networks to get venison to the needy.
“Even if you have enough in your family and friends, it’s a good thing to get one to donate,” she said. “We have enough deer in this state to put some protein on the dinner table for those who need it.”
Southeast: “Our small bucks started chasing about a week ago at my club in Perry County, but the big ones haven’t,” said Riley Smith of Hattiesburg. “I’m glad we have the late season. We aren’t shooting does on our club because we just haven’t got the numbers we’ve seen in past years. The biologist that works with clubs around us told us that the numbers are down, but that we should take a few. We will let the kids shoot one in February if they haven’t killed any deer and want to.”