Each year, Magnolia State bowhunters dole out wads of cash on the latest models of tree stands, scent elimination products, camouflage patterns, deer calls, doe-in-heat scents, high-tech bows, arrows and broadheads - anything that will hopefully give us an edge at taking a trophy buck.

Then in late summer we head out to our favorite hunting grounds to prepare food plots, do a little preseason scouting and set up a few tree stands.

Finally, opening morning arrives. You take a shower, pull on your camouflage, spray yourself down with scent eliminator, then grab your gear and head out to your most promising treestand. The adrenaline is flowing and you are pumped!

As the orange glow of the morning sun begins peeking above the horizon and the woods around your stand slowly come to life, you are reminded of why you love hunting with stick and string - the sights, the smells and the sounds of the outdoors. It's great to be back in your treestand once again.

Moments later, the familiar sound of footsteps rustling in the leaves brings you back to reality and the main reason you are perched 20 feet above the forest floor. Certain it's a deer feeding your way, you turn ever so slowly only to discover that it's just another squirrel.

You try to stay optimistic, hoping that it's only a matter of time before that buck of a lifetime makes his way under your stand. However, hours turn into days, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, and still no bucks. The early mornings and long hours sitting on stand are beginning to take their toll.

Then the second-guessing creeps in as you begin questioning the hunting tactics you were so certain prior to the season would produce a buck. It seems the harder you hunt the more the glass appears to be half empty. And before you know it, the season comes to another disappointing end with you headed home empty-handed.

For many archers this scenario plays itself out season after season.

Fortunately, it doesn't always have to end this way. Motivational speaker and author Tony Robbins is credited with the quote, "If you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always gotten."

So if your hunting strategies haven't been working in the past, it would be wise to follow the advice of those few bowhunters who are consistently successful.

Jimmy Cassell of Port Gibson perfectly fits that mold. The 57-year-old archer has passed up more 140-class deer with his bow than most hunters will ever see in their lifetimes. In fact, the walls of his home are adorned with numerous trophy bucks that are a testament to his bowhunting success.

Cassell was born in rural Claiborne County, and grew up hunting the hills and hollows of his family's 1,000-acre cattle farm, Waterloo Plantation, located between Bayou Pierre and the Mississippi River.

Like many of us, Cassell started out deer hunting with guns, but with a quarter Seminole and Cherokee blood running through his veins, it wasn't long before hunting with bow and arrow began to intrigue the young Cassell. His fascination with bowhunting continued to grow until archery equipment became his exclusive method of hunting whitetails. In fact, for the past 15 years, Waterloo Plantation has been archery-only for the handful of hunters allowed to hunt whitetails on the property.

So what is the secret to Cassell's bowhunting success? Actually, it's not a single technique, but rather a year-long strategy that enables this bowhunter to consistently put himself within range of monster whitetails season after season.

The first step in Cassell's strategic bowhunting plan begins with scouting. However, scouting to Cassell means far more than traipsing off through the woods a few weeks before opening day. Instead, he combines collecting antler sheds with trail-camera photographs and visual field observations to pattern and keep an inventory of the deer, both bucks and does, that call his hunting property home.

"This past spring, I found 58 shed antlers of all shapes and sizes," said Cassell. "Picking up sheds helps me to identify what bucks made it through the hunting season and the general area they can be found the following season."

Trail cameras and field observations are invaluable tools when it comes to scouting and inventorying your deer herd. Cassell places three trail cameras in strategic locations beginning in early July, and leaves them in place until March or April when the bucks have finished shedding their antlers. And since he lives on the property, Cassell is able to glass large fields and kudzu-lined ravines on almost a daily basis. These observations, combined with the trail-camera photographs, help him to identify most of the deer on his property and keep track of them throughout the year.

"We know the deer on the property so well that we have pet names for most every one of them," Cassell said. "We have very few surprises. Most every buck we harvest has been previously identified and targeted as one we want to remove from the herd, whether it's a cull or a mature buck that has reached its maximum antler potential."

Keeping such a close inventory of his deer herd also allows Cassell to be more efficient in his overall management program. For example, each season's doe harvest is dictated by evaluating trail-camera photographs and visual field observations. If the doe population begins growing too rapidly, he will know it before the season opens, and can make adjustments in his harvest goals.

Ultimately, Cassell's intense scouting technique has become both a harvest aid and a management tool.

The next strategic step involves providing adequate nutrition on a year-round basis. Cassell plants both summer and winter plots in specific sizes and strategic locations throughout the property. In addition, Cassell takes full advantage of the available native browse and manages his timberland with that purpose in mind.

With over 50 acres of kudzu and an abundance of ragweed, blue vervain and other natural browse available to provide high-quality deer forage, you would think that summer food plots might not be necessary on Waterloo Plantation. However, Cassell sweetens this summertime buffet by planting three sizeable food plots in American jointvetch. Not only do these 3- to 4-acre summer food plots provide an extra source of protein and phosphorous for antler growth, but they also make great places to hang a stand for an early season hunt.

American jointvetch will continue to grow up until the first killing frost, which usually occurs around the end of October in this particular area of the state.

When it comes to winter food plots, Cassell firmly believes he has latched onto the perfect combination. His winter food plots consist of a mixture of wheat, oats, ladino clover and turnips. As long as the crops are kept grazed down, the deer will feed on the cereal grains all winter long.

Adding a quarter pound of turnip seed per acre provides a little something extra to attract the deer in late fall. The clover really jumps in the late winter and early spring providing high-quality forage when the deer need it most. If the weather cooperates by staying cool and wet, the ladino clover can last well into early summer.

"My objective is to provide the deer herd with a year-round source of the highest quality browse possible," said Cassell. "Utilizing summer and winter food plots allows them to serve dual roles as both a harvesting aid and a supplemental food source."

And it doesn't hurt that Cassell plants an additional 70 acres of ryegrass for his cattle each fall. While most deer biologists recommend planting between one and three percent of the area in food plots, Cassell's total plantings push the nine-percent mark. In order to keep them at peak production, he also collects soil samples each year and fertilizes and limes accordingly.

"If I really want to draw deer into a particular food plot for an early season hunt, I plant iron clay cowpeas around the first of September," Cassell said. "However, you need to plant a large plot of at least five acres in size. Otherwise, the deer will eat this 'ice cream' crop into the ground."

The third step in his strategic plan revolves around stand placement. Not only is the location of an archery stand important for getting the hunter close enough to make the shot, but it is also important in managing hunting pressure. Cassell is a firm believer in providing sanctuary areas and limiting human activity in and around the woods and bedding areas.

"Hunting pressure is detrimental to harvesting mature bucks," said Cassell. "Until the rut starts, we only hunt the field edges or just a short distance inside the tree line. Too much activity in the woods and near bedding areas will cause the bucks to go completely nocturnal, or worse, leave the area."

Unlike most bowhunters, Cassell's stand of choice is a 15-foot ladder stand positioned on the edge of a food plot. His younger brother, Bill, prefers a lock-on style stand positioned 20 feet up a tree and located in a natural funnel between a food source and a bedding area.

While the elder Cassell's gear consists of a Mathews Outback set at 60 pounds and Gold Tip carbon arrows tipped with G5 Montec broadheads, younger brother opts for more traditional archery equipment in his 50-pound draw Black Widow custom recurve bow.

However, Bill does utilize modern technology with Gold Tip carbon arrows and Wensel Woodsman 3-blade broadheads.

Apparently both traditional and modern archery equipment are equally effective, since both Cassell brothers have taken dozens of monster whitetails with their own style of archery equipment. The one thing they do have in common is following the same successful bowhunting strategy.

Cassell has two favorite times of the season to hunt big whitetails. One is the first couple of weeks in the season. During this period, bucks are often still in their bachelor groups and much less wary of their surroundings. One of Cassell's nicest 8-pointers taken with a bow was part of one of these early season bachelor groups. The 254-pound brute sported a 20 1/2-inch-wide rack and scored a hair over 140 inches. But what Cassell remembers most was the other dozen or so bucks that accompanied the monster into the field that October afternoon.

While he has had great success in early season, Cassell's favorite time to hunt really big whitetails is during the rut. The rut for his area of Southwest Mississippi normally begins the middle of December and runs through the first week of January, with the peak falling appropriately on Christmas Day.

The final step, and possibly the most important, is harvest selection. Cassell targets only mature bucks that are at least 5½ years old. Antler size is secondary to age when the decision is made to release an arrow. Allowing the bucks on Waterloo to reach these older age classes ensures they have had the opportunity to maximize their antler growing potential.

Cassell points out that you can't harvest a mature buck if none exists on your hunting property. You have to let the younger bucks go if you want them to grow into mature bucks with massive antlers. Although many bowhunters find this to be too daunting a task, the rewards are often great for those who have the patience and determination to practice this level of deer management.

"A few years back, I had a3 ½-year-old 11-pointer coming out every day beneath my stand," Cassell said. "Although I knew he would score in the lower 160s, I decided to let him go in hopes that he would make it another year and possibly make it to the 170 class.

"Unfortunately for me, the neighboring hunting club killed him during gun season. He scored 163 inches and had an 18-inch inside spread. Although I don't regret not harvesting him when I had the chance, I do regret that I never got to see him reach his full potential."

When it comes to the female segment of his deer herd, Cassell is far less selective. His rule of thumb is to kill every doe that comes within bow range. Over the years, he has learned that you will actually see far more bucks with a low doe population than with a high doe population. If does outnumber bucks in your deer herd, the bucks don't have to move very much to find a receptive doe. On the other hand, lower doe numbers result in increased buck movement, which is necessary in order to harvest a buck with a bow.

Old Man Webster defines success as the achievement of an objective or goal. By following Jimmy Cassell's proven bowhunting strategy, you will be well on your way to successfully achieving your goal of taking that buck of a lifetime with stick and string.