Top deer-hunting is just across the line
Well, if you’re one of those folks who crosses the state line to hunt deer in Mississippi, I have some very good — if not totally surprising — news.
In last month’s installment of Happy Trails, I reported on and gushed over the revelation from QDMA that in 2014 74 percent of bucks harvested in the state were 3½-year-old-plus bucks.
That was the highest percentage of mature buck harvest of any state.
But some additional poking around has revealed that the news just keeps getting better.
Field & Stream magazine has gone a step or two further by compiling the latest data regarding harvest of whitetail deer from the QDMA, the NSSF, and the B&C and P&Y clubs.
The resulting numbers are a real stunner, if you hunt deer in Mississippi. Well, maybe not, as those of us that hunt deer in Mississippi see the truth every time we go afield.
With national deer harvest rates, overall success rates and trophy trends down — and generally in the tank — the picture here in Mississippi appears to be better than it has ever been.
Mississippi is now ranked as the new No. 1 state for whitetail deer hunting.
According to the latest numbers, Mississippi hunter’s average almost two deer each, and an amazing proportion of harvested bucks, as pointed out earlier, are mature.
To be listed at the top of the heap overall compared to all of the other legendary spots across the breadth of whitetail range in this country is nothing short of phenomenal.
The Top 10 list included, in descending order, Kansas, Texas and Wisconsin.
You have to agree that is some very good company to be in.
Another eye-popping revelation concerns the five states that have experienced the largest declines in trophy record-book entries.
The states with the largest reported percentage decline in record-book entries are South Dakota, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Illinois, in that order, with Illinois being the worst with a 65.9-percent downward change.
That is hard for me to even comprehend. Again, I just have to echo my comments in last month’s article regarding the fantastic job that the professionals at the MDWFP have done over the last 15 years or so, in concert with Mississippi hunters.
OK, we can now stop patting our collective selves on the back and grinning like a bunch of possums, as we pivot back to topics that can better allow us to take advantage of this new No. 1 status.
My opening salvo involves something most likely a number of us have at least thought about from time to time while sitting on deer stand on any number of cold, clear, frosty mornings.
It involves noise and how well it carries, especially in winter.
One early morning during this most-recent deer season, I had stealthily crept in to a great spot overlooking a hardwood drainage that always has good deer activity during the rut.
Sometime after daybreak, I heard the unmistakable sound of a four-wheeler being cranked about a half mile north of my location on a neighbor’s property. As the ATV began to move, I could tell the driver was trying to be quiet and stealthy, as the throttle was opened just enough to make progress but not disturb the woods.
The low putt-putt was interrupted occasionally by a louder growl as the machine and rider traversed an incline.
Knowing the terrain pretty well over which the neighboring hunter was driving, I had no trouble at all following the progress and knowing with reasonable accuracy at any given time exactly where the hunter and ATV were.
In a short while, the machine topped a ridge near our common boundary fence and putted to a stop, and the engine was shut off.
I sort of chuckled and shook my head because if my set of almost 68-year-old ears had been able to follow the sound and knew exactly where the hunter had stopped to hunt from close to half a mile away, then every deer within earshot knew the same thing.
With nothing to do that morning but scan the hardwood drainage around me for deer movement, my mind kicked in and the gears started turning.
Anybody who took high school geometry knows the formula for finding the area of a circle is Area (in square feet) = the constant pi (3.14) multiplied times the radius (distance in feet from you to the sound source) squared (the radius multiplied times itself).
A quick calculation in my head revealed that when the hunter stopped his ATV about four-tenths of a mile away (a distance of approximately 2,000 feet) to begin hunting, I was at that moment hearing clearly what was going on in a circle of that radius centered on my location, which calculates to be about 300 acres in size.
That is pretty eye-opening, especially when you consider that I have hearing difficulties and the resident deer in the area can hear infinitely better than I can. As a human, I am almost deaf by comparison to the hearing ability of a whitetail deer.
Noise matters, so why in the world would any of us serious deer hunters want to telegraph what we are doing and where we are doing it before climbing into a deer stand?
That is definitely something to consider.
The use of gasoline-powered ATVs has become so widespread and commonplace these days that hunters for the most part don’t give a second thought to their use and to the noise that is generated. The fact that we, as a society, have generally become so averse to walking is not lost on anyone who has been on a deer stand before dawn, listening in the distance to the sounds of ATVs cranking and moving about like so many cicadas breaking into song on a warm summer evening.
My concluding caution would be to never drive your ATV to your actual stand site. Parking a quarter mile or so away and stealthily slipping in on foot is a much better recipe for hunter success.
Taking this sound phenomenon a step further, we all at times judge the merits of local deer movement on a given morning or evening hunt by the number and general direction of shots heard.
I know for a fact that, under good weather conditions for sound transmission, I can hear shots that emanate from at least two or three miles away.
That corresponds to circular areas of hearing that range from 12½ square miles for a two-mile radius to 28 square miles for a three-mile radius.
That’s a lot of real estate in anybody’s book.