Where I hunt in southwest Mississippi, deer season always begins on Saturday morning of the weekend before Thanksgiving. In all my life, for I’ve been hunting as long as I can remember, I have never missed opening day. It’s like a family tradition. This year, 2008, was no different.
My alarm went off at 3:30am and I quickly snoozed it for another 10 minutes, but after that I knew I had to get up. I had a two-hour drive to the hunting camp and needed to be there by sunrise, which was around 6:45. I stumbled down the hallway to the living room couch and turned on the TV to help wake me up. In case you ever wondered what’s on that early in the morning, or that late at night depending on how you look at it, let’s just say you aren’t missing much. I eventually got my stuff together and was on the road by 4:45am.
The drive from my house to the hunting camp, which is on private family-owned property, consists mainly of Interstate travel with the last twenty or so miles going through back roads that eventually turn to gravel logging roads. Just as I was turning off the last bit of pavement, a doe ran out in front of me and I had to slam on the brakes to keep from hitting her. I took this as a good sign that the deer were moving.
I arrived at the hunting camp right at 7am and it was pretty cold outside, but not freezing. I debated whether or not to even wear a jacket over my three layers of shirts, then a cold breeze hit me and I knew the jacket was going on. Within a few minutes, I was walking down a long trail toward an area where I’d seen a lot of deer activity last year. My dad and a friend were already there from camping out the night before, and we’d agreed earlier on where everyone was going so we wouldn’t cross paths and mess up each other’s hunt.
After about twenty minutes of still hunting, a young spike buck emerged from a clearing and presented a nice broadside shot for me, but unfortunately it is illegal to shoot any buck of less than four points in the state of Mississippi. I tried to take a picture of the deer with my cell phone, but he saw me and darted away. I stood by and watched him meander on through the woods because I didn’t want to spook him too bad in case there were other deer around.
As I moved further into the woods, I suddenly saw a huge mass of movement up ahead, but the woods were so thick I couldn’t make out anything. I wasn’t sure if it were several deer or a small pack of coyotes. Because the ground was so dry and I couldn’t risk making a bunch of noise by moving, I stayed hidden behind a tree and eventually lost sight of whatever it was until I walked ahead about forty yards.
That mass of movement I had seen earlier was a doe with three yearlings. I’d never before seen so many little ones with one doe, and those yearlings were literally running circles around her. It reminded me of how my young nieces run around their grandparent’s house. I watched them all through my scope for a while, as they were oblivious to my being there. Although none of them had any spots, I wouldn’t dare shoot a doe with young ones around, nor would I take such a young deer. Compared to the full grown doe, they were all very small.
I didn’t see any more deer for the rest of the day, although I did spot an opossum and an armadillo digging around in the woods. Squirrels and woodpeckers were aplenty, as usual. I think it was a little too dry for a decent hunt, because the leaves crunched too loudly under foot. The hunting usually doesn’t get good until there’s been a solid overnight freeze, which just hasn’t happened yet.
Tomorrow morning, I will be headed back out to do it all over again. I’m bringing leftover turkey sandwiches with me this time.