Perry Ross of Big Creek never thinks of deer hunting as a seasonal sport. At 55, he’s got nearly 50 years under his belt in the woods, and for him there’s the offseason and the on-season — but it’s always deer season.
Ross hunts huge parcels of land in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas as part of Ross Trophy Outfitters, but he’s always got something cooking at home by the time Oct. 1 rolls around for the opening day of Mississippi’s archery season.
Ross believes deer season actually begins the day the previous season ends. He understands that not every deer hunter keeps such a strict regimen, and he had some tips for hunters who are late to the party.
“If you watch deer hunting on TV, you see hunters headed out into the cold to hunt; that’s not Mississippi,” he said. “This is hot-weather hunting for the first part of the season, and you have to plan and hunt differently because of that.”
With a month to go until the fun starts, many deer clubs are rushing to get food plots in the ground. Ross said they are important for nutrition and antler development, and they can be hunted over, but in Mississippi, food plots typically aren’t a big draw during daylight hours until much later in the season.
“You are much better off during the preseason identifying the places that have oak flats,” he said. “Water oaks and pin oaks will drop first, and then you’ll get white oaks and red oaks and whatever else is available. Your better deer tend not to hit food plots or baited areas until after dark.”
Ross (662-983-9304) said identifying the No. 1 food source deer will use on a property — oak trees — will provide clues about where to hunt. Some hunters will throw up a ladder stand with a clear view of several trees in close proximity; Ross wants to back up and find trails leading to those oaks, which requires spending some quality time on the ground scouting.
“As hunters, we do a lot to educate deer about how we hunt them,” Ross said. “We put up trail cameras, and we go in there every day and check them. When a good buck does show up on camera, he knows you better than you know him.”
Having hunted in wide-open ranges as well as thicker forests, Ross said Southern deer — and Mississippi deer in particular — rely on their sense of smell a lot more than sight or hearing. At times, deer may not believe what they see if they can’t attach a scent to it. Because of that, how a hunter approaches an area is critical anytime he steps in the woods.
“When I’m preseason scouting, whether that’s using a program like X-maps or just a handheld map, I’m looking for likely bedding areas and then looking for pinch points or edges between the bedding area and those oak flats,” Ross said. “I’m also planning my approach to those areas, even the first time I walk in. I want to make sure I’m going in downwind and not leaving a bunch of scent behind to educate those deer.”
While other hunters are busy building and putting up stands, Ross (www.rosstrophyoutfitters.com) prefers the versatility of a climbing stand or a portable lock-on. If he has an area he likes-from his scouting, he keeps in mind the two most -likely wind scenarios he’ll face in Mississippi — a southwest or a north wind — and he makes sure he’s identified areas to place his stand on the daily conditions when he goes to hunt.
“We get a lot of southwest winds in Mississippi in the early season, so I want to make sure I have my area planned out for a southwest stand,” he said. “When the weather changes, we get north winds for a few days, so I also want to plan for that.”
Like other hunters who are out hanging and checking trail cameras before the season, Ross will use game cameras to collect information, but his take on them is more pro-active than most.
“First of all, you’re going to need more cameras than you think,” he said. “I’m trying to identify a trophy buck’s core area, so when you see the, then look for the travel route he’s using and back down that trail to his bedding area.”
Ross has a warning for hunters who fall in love with a buck you find on camera. Everything changes once the velvet comes off, and he said a good buck is likely to move once the season comes in. He believes this is God’s way of making sure the buck isn’t in-breeding. You can kill him, he said, but you have to do it quickly.
“The good news is that some good buck on another property will leave there and is likely to show up where you’re at,” he said. “That’s why identifying the core area is important. Get in there and hunt him before the mating season changes everything.”
A final tip on preseason scouting and even seasonal scouting with cameras is to check them every six or seven days instead of daily. If you have a camera at a baited area, check it when you put out new bait. If it’s close to an area you are hunting, take a card with you on the hunt and pull the old card on your way out at night.
Ross summed up his thoughts on being late to any piece of property, both in joining a club and on the day of the hunt. He tells the story of being a new member in a big club. When opening day arrived, all the members drove out to their stands in their side-by-sides, hunted until 10:30 and came back for breakfast. Ross had done his scouting and figured out likely escape routes once the hunting pressure increased, and he used that knowledge to kill a nice buck every opening day for several years.
“I took a climber and went in the long way ,well before daylight,” he said. “I had figured out where the deer were approaching other stands and where they would go once things got hectic. The second thing I did was stay in the woods well past 10 o’clock. Once everyone else packed up and began to leave, they pushed the deer right to me, and I had 15 to 20 nice bucks to choose from.
“Most of the time, especially in a big club, you have to be smarter than the deer as well as smarter than the competition.”