A long-time archer, dating back to his high school days, Gary Thompson has always looked forward to the opening day of the bow season on deer in Mississippi.

This year he’s downright giddy.

Thompson, 42, of Jackson, can hardly wait for Monday, the first day of the 2018-19 archery season on deer, and for good reason. He’s got a pretty good read on the biggest buck he’s ever seen on his family’s property in southern Hinds County.

“I started getting pictures of this buck on trail cams about the first of September in a hardwood bottom,” Thompson said. “He’s a tall and wide 12-point typical that’s going to score at least 160 and probably much higher. This is a deer that I’ve never seen before, at least not one I recognize from the past year or two.

“There’s only two of us and our kids that hunt the 125 acres, and none of us recognize him. They clear cut some timberland about three miles from us earlier this year and our hardwoods are the nearest one north of that property and we have a creek that goes from us to the clear cut. Maybe he got run out of there and came to us. I really don’t care; I’m just glad he’s there.”

Thompson and thousands of other Mississippians in all but the Southeast Zone can start targeting deer on Monday, Oct. 1, with archery equipment. It is also opening day of the statewide squirrel season, which plays a role in Thompson’s deer.

“My son and I went squirrel hunting two afternoons this week, dodging rain, during the youth season (it opened on Monday, Sept. 24),” he said. “We were very careful and stayed out of the area where the cams have gotten his photo. I would have stayed completely off the property but I had promised him we’d go before we started getting the pictures.

“Wouldn’t you know it, the first afternoon after school we drove in and he crossed the dirt road about 100 yards in front of us, heading from a thicket area toward the same hardwoods where the cams had been catching him. The next day, I went down there earlier in the day and eased into the woods about 300 yards up the road, and, sure enough, he crossed the same road at the same place. My guess, he’s bedding in those thickets and going to the hardwoods to feed.”

Later that afternoon, Thompson decided to go back squirrel hunting on the other end of the property, but they entered from a different direction.

“A promise is a promise, and I took my boy and we killed about four more squirrels,” he said. “We killed six the first day. I figured that if we hunted the opposite corner of the property that would encourage the buck to stay where he was and help me lock him down. At least, that’s what I have told myself would happen.

“I put a climber on a tree about 40 yards up the road from where he’s crossing and in the woods in the direction he’d pass to go to the hardwoods to feed. I hope either on Monday or Tuesday he’ll slip into the trap.”

Archery season will open in the Southeast Zone on Oct. 15, and since bows are legal during any gun season, archers can hunt every day through Jan. 31 in the Delta, East Central Northeast and Southwest Zones. The Southeast can continue through to Feb. 15.