Ground Zero: Mississippi's Record Bucks
February 05, 2019
Deer hunters in the Magnolia State are blessed with the very best deer hunting in the nation. According to the Quality Deer Management Association’s 2018 Whitetail Report, Mississippi deer hunters harvested a higher percentage of mature whitetail bucks than any state that collects such data. In the report, Mississippi took the top spot with an incredible 78 percent of the bucks harvested during the 2016-17 season being 3 1/2 years old or older. In a healthy deer population, older bucks equate to bigger racks and better chances of harvesting a trophy.
There are several counties in the Magnolia State that yield monster whitetails on an annual basis. With only a few exceptions, these trophy-producing counties can all be found along the Mississippi River. Adams County is one of the best, as it gives hunters numerous ways to access this trophy-producing county.
ACCESS 1: ST. CATHERINE CREEK NWR
St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge, located just seven miles south of Natchez off U.S. Highway 61, provides some of the best public land trophy deer hunting in the Magnolia State. This 24,445-acre refuge is comprised of a mixture of bottomland and upland hardwoods, cleared land, cypress swamps and fallow fields. Bordered by the Mississippi River to the west, the Homochitto River to the south and private property to the north and east, St. Catherine Creek sits smack in the middle of what many consider to be a premier trophy hotspot.
The rich, fertile soils provide an abundance of succulent forages that contain high levels of protein, calcium and phosphorous. In addition to the natural vegetation, the refuge is literally surrounded by thousands of acres of agricultural crops, not including the 1,200 acres of corn, rice and grain sorghum planted along the river for wintering ducks on the refuge.
The age structure and genetics of the deer herd on the refuge are unsurpassed. Although there is no intensive deer management plan for the refuge, the limited season framework (archery and muzzleloader only) combined with hunters making a conscious effort to harvest quality bucks and an exceptional number of does are the secrets to its success. And it doesn’t hurt that St. Catherine has an abundance of thick cover, which further increases the chances of the bucks on the refuge reaching their antler potential.
Hunters age 16 and over are required to possess a valid Annual Public Use Permit, which can be found at lowermiss.recaccess.com.
While St. Catherine Creek NWR lacks modern amenities, such as cabins or restaurants, the historic city of Natchez is only a few miles away and offers an abundant variety of amenities.
ACCESS 2: GILES ISLAND HUNTING CLUB
Experience the premier hunter’s paradise at Giles Island (email@example.com). At Giles Island, their passion for hunting and dedication to family, honor and tradition combine to provide the most exclusive Hunting Club in the South. Their expansive acreage, excellent accommodations and complex history are enticing to hunters of all types, including both rifle and bowhunters.
Steeped in the heritage of the Deep South, Giles Island is the perfect destination for a fair-chase trophy whitetail excursion. The island supports a population of over 1,000 deer, with a buck-to-doe ratio of one to one. An intense focus on wildlife management contributes to the quality of trophy bucks on Giles Island. The average buck weight is over 200 pounds, with some bucks weighing in at 280 pounds. The average trophy score on Giles Island ranges in the mid 140s, with several bucks scoring over 170 inches.
With a total acreage of 9,400, and located only 15 minutes from Natchez, Giles Island is a hunter’s retreat. Giles Island offers a variety of hunting scenarios, from dense thickets to wide-open fields. In addition to deer hunting, Giles Island offers alligator, dove, turkey and squirrel hunting, and fishing.
From the day Giles Island was purchased, the land has been intensely managed with a single goal: To produce trophy whitetail bucks. Although they have succeeded in meeting this goal, they are constantly working to improve the potential. Giles Island has created the ideal scenario that most hunting clubs covet. They shoot age class instead of a minimum number of points, spread or score. As a result, the average antler score has improved from 120 to 145 inches, with their most impressive buck scoring 248 inches.
Giles Island Hunting Club is 100 percent fair chase, with no high fences or “trophy” fees. Rates for a three-day deer hunt during the 2018-2019 season ranged from $2,200 to $6,000 depending on the date and method (archery or gun). This is a mandatory fully guided hunt. Per each three-day hunt, a hunter has the opportunity to harvest one trophy buck and one management buck.
ACCESS 3: PRIVATE HUNTING LEASE OR HUNTING CLUB
Access to private lands through a hunting club membership or a hunting lease is quite a bit more of an obstacle for deer hunters in trophy-rich Adams County. Locating well-managed properties certainly isn’t the issue. Just about every acre of Adams County would be considered prime trophy buck territory. The availability is where there is a problem. Deer hunting leases in this part of the Magnolia State are sacred and rarely come available. The same can be said for open memberships in the deer clubs that dot the landscape. About the only time either becomes available is with a death. And even then, a family member of the deceased is usually next in line to wrap up the open club membership slot or hunting lease.
However, if persistent at putting in a little extra time and effort, a prized deer hunting club membership and even an occasional hunting lease can be found from time to time. Social media, online blogs and various outdoor publications are great ways to stay in tune with potential hunting club openings and deer hunting properties for lease. Taking a ride through the countryside and knocking on a few doors of prospective properties sometimes will produce unexpected dividends. However, be prepared to have far more doors slammed than invitations to come inside for a visit. And if all else fails, you can always contact one of the many real estate agents in the area and purchase your own piece of Adams County trophy deer hunting heaven.
Check out this video to learn how to manage your small track of land to bag your trophy buck.
Show Me The Money
The Magnolia State has long been blessed with a wealth of wildlife resources. But the true economic value of these natural resources has never been more evident than they are today. Based on data collected by the Forest and Wildlife Research Center at Mississippi State University, direct expenditures by residents and non-residents engaged in hunting and fishing in Mississippi generate- economic activity both in the sectors where the expenditures are made but also in other sectors of Mississippi’s economy.
According to this particular 2010 research project, hunters and anglers spent $1.7 billion on goods and services associated with hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. This activity generated an additional $1.03 billion in output resulting in a total economic impact of $2.73 billion to the Magnolia State economy. Of the three activities, hunting generated the largest output at $1.14 billion with fishing and wildlife watching generating $773 million and $829 million, respectively.
White-tailed deer hunting led all activities with over $860 million in output. Waterfowl was next in line in the hunting category at $152 million, followed by wild turkey at $90 million. Freshwater fishing generated an overall economic impact of $727 million, while saltwater angling added an additional economic impact of $46 million.