Being in the woods, taking nice deer, have changed the lives of more than just one or two hunters.
For every hunter, there is a shaft of light, an opening in the woods, or a corner of a green field where his or her buck of a lifetime stands in regal splendor — albeit in a dream.
It remains there, broadside, while the hunter collects his or her nerve and takes the shot, which naturally will be accurate and true.
Admit it, you have been that hunter; I know I have been and will be again. When the anticipation of seeing game no longer stirs my soul, I will case my gun and hunt no more. Moreso, I’ll be dead and buried.
Every November, the promise of another deer season comes to fruition. Archery season arrived last month, and early youth seasons and special anterless seasons have taken place. For most Mississippians, however, the Saturday before Thanksgiving is and will always be the opening of deer season. The gun season opens for all.
Some hunters are prepared, others, well, not so much. Some have never technically allow the season to close, with only the window for harvest suspended for eight or nine months. These are the men and women who walk their properties, keep trail cameras operating all year, practice predator control and follow the accepted best practices of herd management. Their investment in time and material will never be wasted, in their opinion.
For others, there is an adage about blind hogs and acorns that will ring true through time.
“Deer hunting in Mississippi is a fluid process,” said William McKinley, deer program leader for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “Since deer were restored to the state in the last century until present, many changes have taken place, both in the laws and the attitude about hunting them. It remains the goal of the MDWFP to provide the greatest opportunity possible to the hunting public.
“For that reason, the regulations are constantly being adjusted. The overall health of the statewide herd is excellent. There has been one reported case of CWD in Issaquena County. MDWFP is planning increased statewide sampling of in an effort to locate and combat this disease.”
McKinley said hunters should have very good opportunities to harvest deer on lands managed by the state and other governmental entities. Rain has come when it was needed and mast crops look fair — which should result in increased food-plot use — and deer should be plentiful.
One of the more-recent tendencies by hunters has been to allow young bucks to get older before harvesting. With the advent of trail cameras and increased knowledge of deer, biology hunters are allowing more bucks to mature before harvesting them.
What follows is a big-buck thread that binds the heart and soul of most hunters to the way of life that keeps them dreaming of that special buck, standing in that special place, at least once in their lifetime. Some have been here before, while others are relative newcomers to the passion of the chase. Some enjoy record-book hunts that inspire them to make a lifestyle change, while others are simply delighted to score a buck worthy of being mounted and put on the wall.
Maybe it will stir your spirit and kindle your passion for the eons old activity we call hunting.
B&C Trophy adjusted his life
Joey Rigby of Forest loves deer hunting, and he has a testimony about how it has changed his life for the better.
For five years, Rigby collected trail-camera images and sightings of a buck members of his club had named “Junior.” On a January day in 2018, the buck made the mistake of stepping out into a power line with a doe. Rigby saw the resulting photo and started planning.
“There was a shooting house closer to the plot where the deer was feeding and chasing the doe,” he said. “Fortunately for me, no one was hunting there that day. Needless to say, I was in that shooting house the next day.
“To say I was anxious was an understatement. I had already allowed a nice 8-point and a big 6-point with perhaps a 17-inch spread, to walk that season.”
Rigby began to come to terms with the possibility of harvesting Junior, prayed to God for the opportunity, and made promises, too, like joining the church, changing his lifestyle and living better if he could just get that buck.
“The deer reappeared with what I believe was the same doe,” Rigby said. “God held up his end of the deal, and I’m holding up my end as well.
“I was baptized the following Sunday and have been learning and accepting more of what the Lord has planned for my life ever since.”
Junior was scored at 177½ inches at the Big Buck Bounty in Meridian, making the Boone and Crockett Club’s all-time record book. He was aged at 5½ or 6½ years.
One for the wall
Hunting came naturally for Lisa Albright. She and her brother began hunting with their father when she was between her 10th and 11th birthdays. She loved being outside and being involved in all those things that take place in the preparation of the land that add to the anticipation of the actual hunting time.
By age 15, Albright had put her hands on the first deer she killed. Over the next 40 or so years, she added many more bucks and does to the family larder. Along the way, she matured as a hunter, setting goals and, determining the steps to see those goals come to fruition.
Time has not dimmed her passion, in fact, time has just given her the skill set to make her goals more obtainable.
“Hunting, especially deer hunting, is in my blood,” Albright said. “As long as I can get to the woods I’ll do it. I’ll hunt until the day I die if I’m able.”
One Christmas, Albright asked Santa Claus for her very own Old Man tree stand, and her request was granted. She took another of step toward becoming a complete hunter.
Albright was all in at that point. The next time she went hunting, her first hunt in the new stand, she asked to be dropped off and wanted to stay in the woods all day. She settled into her tree and became one with nature, for more than just a day.
“I didn’t see a deer I wanted to shoot that day, but I proved to myself and my family I was capable of going it alone,” Albright said. “It was a long day, and there were some times I thought about coming down and packing out, but that was not in the cards.
“The woods were so peaceful, (and) while there are few human sounds, the woods are anything but silent, quiet maybe, but there is lot to hear if you will just listen. All kinds of birds, squirrels and other critters are there — and you will see them if you have the nerve to be still and quiet.”
One of her goals as she grew to be a mature hunter was to kill a buck worthy of a shoulder mount, one to hang on the wall.
It took a few years, but it finally took place.
“It all happened on an afternoon hunt in Holmes County,” Albright said. “I went to a shooting house that was bordered by a creek to the right, and across the creek and tree line was a huge harvested peanut field. There was a long, narrow food plot directly in front of the shooting house that ran along the creek and another small, round food plot out the left window of the shooting house.”
Albright said there was always a small doe that everyone saw when hunting on that side of the property, and it showed up in her food plot and stayed most of the afternoon.
“As the day faded into late afternoon and the sun started to descend, I had about four does burst into the small, round food plot to my left,” Albright said. “I got my rifle out the left window ready, thinking that maybe a good buck was chasing them. I kept waiting but nothing appeared.
“So I just watched those does feed around. I was going back and forth checking both fields. I had that small doe in the field in front and the four does in the small field to my left when I realized there was movement at the far end of the long food plot directly in front. It was a buck, and this one was a shooter. I changed windows with my rifle, took a deep breath and bleated. He stopped, and I centered on his neck and took the shot.”
The buck dropped where he stood.
“My daddy taught me to shoot them in the neck and they drop in their tracks,” Albright said. “Dad was right.”
The buck, a long time in coming, was a surprise visitor.
“He had to have crossed the peanut field and the creek to be where he was when I shot him,” she said. “I had never seen this deer before. I was simply in the right place at the right time, and everything happened very quickly. Had I kept my eyes on the other food plot for even few seconds longer, my buck would have crossed the bottom of the food plot, and I would have never seen him. He scored 128 and made a beautiful mount. I am so proud of him.”
Today, Albright lists that peace that hunters know as one of the reasons she hunts whitetails. The other is to fill the freezer. Her family enjoys all the different ways venison can be cooked and eaten.
“I encourage those with no experience, who want to get involved in hunting, to try to find a mentor, a veteran hunter to show them the ropes,” Albright said. “I was lucky, it was the way our family lived. Outdoor activities were important, and still are.
“Some women think I’m a tomboy, and maybe to a point that may be true, but hunting is not just a man’s game,” she said. “And I am no less feminine for loving the woods. In most cultures around the world the woman are the primary hunter-gatherers of the family. I’m just doing what comes naturally.”