December 19, 2018
Many non-hunters don’t understand the hunting heritage of this country. While trophies and kills are oftentimes the endgame, they certainly aren’t what defines the sport.
According to the latest U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Survey, from 2011 to 2016 hunter numbers declined by 2.2 million. Fortunately, Mississippi saw an eight percent increase in the number of deer hunters during the same period. The data also indicates that women and children are the fastest growing demographics in hunting.
On a brighter note, Magnolia State hunters 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.
FIRST BUCK AND FIRST DOE
Presleigh Stigler of Rankin County has loved the outdoors her entire life, all 7 years of it. Assisted by her father, Cameron Stigler, this young lady squeezed the trigger (dad was holding and aiming the rifle) on her first deer while a mere 3 years old. At age 5, Presleigh replicated this feat on a nice 9-point buck. In addition to deer, she has participated in other types of hunting, including dove, squirrel and wild hog.
Focusing on schoolwork and helping her mother with her two younger brothers, Presleigh had only been given one opportunity to go to the deer woods with her dad last year. So, on the last day of the season, her dad rewarded her by checking her out of school early to let her try and bag a doe, so she wouldn’t end the season empty handed. Fortunately for Presleigh, a family friend offered them the opportunity to hunt a well-managed deer property in Hinds County.
Arriving at their hunting destination at 3:45 p.m., the pair waited for what seemed an eternity to a 7-year-old. They would be on doe patrol unless a mature buck appeared.
“After several phone games — Daddy, I’m bored; Daddy, I’m hungry; Daddy, I’m tired — the first deer of the afternoon finally entered the field,” Cameron recalled.
A nice healthy doe appeared, followed by a young 3 1/2-year-old palmated 8-pointer. Presleigh was fixated on the young buck, but her dad convinced her to try for the fat doe instead. At 4:30 p.m., Presleigh put her shooting practice to good use by finding the doe’s shoulder in the crosshairs and squeezing off a round. The bullet found its mark, and the doe made a break for the tree line.
Father and daughter celebrated her success and spent the next few minutes reviewing the video of the hunt from inside the box stand. Presleigh was anxious to retrieve her doe and get back to camp, but her dad knew there was plenty of time for a buck to come out before dark.
Around 5:30 p.m., Presleigh spotted a huge buck as he trotted into the field with his nose to the ground in search of a hot doe. Near chaos ensued inside the deer stand as they rushed to get Presleigh ready for the shot.
“Her ear muffs were tangled in her hair, the buck was zig-zagging across the field and we needed to switch seats,” said Cameron. “I didn’t think we were going to have time as fast as he was moving and with all the problems we were having!”
Finally, Presleigh was able to find the buck in her sights and squeeze the trigger. The buck made a beeline for the cover of the forest. Feeling that she may have hit the buck a little far back, her dad called a friend for assistance with tracking the buck. Presleigh waited impatiently in the truck as her dad and his friend followed the blood trail into the woods.
Less than 20 yards inside the tree line they found the 144 1/8-inch 10-pointer and began dragging it to the truck. As the truck door opened, Presleigh’s jaw dropped in disbelief at the size of her buck. Her squeals of delight could be heard throughout the woods as she rushed over and grasped the massive antlers in her tiny hands.
Not only was this the first buck and first doe Presleigh had taken without any assistance from her dad, but she had also taken them on the same hunt during the last hours of the season.
THE REWARDS OF HUNTING ALONE
Susan James of Byram grew up in a hunting family but didn’t catch the bug until she was in her mid 30s. With no one to supply her with venison, Susan borrowed her mother’s Remington Model 700 chambered in .257 Roberts and started hunting on her own. Despite feeling somewhat unwelcome in the predominantly male hunting world, Susan continued to pursue her passion for the outdoors. A trophy buck was never her primary goal; simply putting tasty venison on her family’s dinner table was satisfaction enough.
Hunting mostly alone on a small 100-acre tract of family land in rural Adams County, she was sometimes kidded by her coworkers about her using her company car for hunting. After her first ATV was stolen from her cabin, Susan actually used her company car to drag a buck she killed out of the woods and back to camp, proof that ingenuity is the mother of invention and that this lady has some abilities.
This past season Susan joined an elite group of hunters when she harvested an 8-point giant with matching stickers off its brow tines that would end up stretching the tape to 160 6/8 inches. But her greatest satisfaction came from the fact that every element of the hunt was the result of her own efforts.
The hunt actually began during the 2016-2017 season when Susan caught the buck slipping through the hardwoods in front of her stand. She was able to fire off a round and thought she had found her target. However, when searching she jumped the buck and found no blood trail. The experience made her determined to target the buck.
On November 25, 2017, she would get the chance to redeem herself. Arriving at her tripod stand along a well-traveled ridge before daylight, she was hopeful for another encounter. Out of boredom from the lack of deer movement, Susan began playing with her Primos Deer Can in hopes of luring in a doe with a soft bleat.
“I had been working the call every 15 minutes or so for about an hour when I saw movement to my right,” Susan recalled. “As he got closer to my stand I could tell he was a good buck, but I didn’t realize it was the big one I had missed the year before. However, I knew immediately that he was definitely worth taking!”
At 20 yards, the buck began acting nervous. Susan waited until the buck lowered his head to smell the ground before raising her rifle. At the report, the massive buck bolted forward but appeared to be carrying his front left leg indicating a good hit. The bruiser only made it about 50 yards before collapsing within sight of her stand.
“I knew he was a big deer, but I didn’t realize just how big,” said Susan. “All I knew was that this 10-pointer was the biggest buck I had ever taken!”
After a great deal of tugging and pulling, she finally was able to use her new ATV to get the monster out of the woods and loaded on her trailer. According to Susan James, hunting alone has its challenges, but the rewards can be huge.
FIRST HUNT YIELDS DREAM BUCK
Every hunter dreams of taking a 200-class whitetail, but very few ever see that dream come true. For 13-year-old Joseph Blalock of Brookhaven, his dream became a reality on November 22 on his first hunt of the 2017-2018 deer season. This monster non-typical would soon be recognized as one of the most impressive whitetails taken in Mississippi last season.
The giant, mainframe 12-pointer sported 17 scoreable points with another five non-scoreable points that easily would hold a ring. The buck that was taken from a small tract of well-managed family land in Franklin County was green-scored at 205 6/8 inches.
Following a Rural Rapid Response Thanksgiving Party, Joseph and his dad (Tyler Blalock), decided to head to the deer stand for an afternoon hunt. Joseph decided to try the new “Cross Stand” (named for the crisscross pattern of the food plot), while his dad opted to hunt the “River Stand.”
The first two hours on stand was uneventful and boring for young Joseph. In order to pass the time, he entertained himself by playing with a wasp that was too cold to play back, knocking down dirt dauber nests and watching YouTube videos on his phone.
Around 4:30 p.m., a lone doe entered the far end of the food plot. As the doe exited the food plot, Joseph turned around to see if anything had come out behind him. He spotted two deer that had slipped out of the brush to the east of his stand. One was a spike, but the other was a mature buck.
“I knew the buck standing before me was at least a good 8 point, but I had no idea how good a buck he really was,” Joseph said. “I shot him the first chance I got. He wasn’t broadside, so I ended up shooting him in the neck so he wouldn’t run off.”
Joseph squeezed the trigger on his AR-15 chambered in 6.8 SPC (a rifle his dad had built especially for Joseph) and the giant buck dropped in its tracks at about 70 yards. Immediately, Joseph texted his dad.
However, Joseph’s text wasn’t making any sense due to his excitement, so his dad called him. Joseph told his dad that he wasn’t sure how big the buck was, but his antlers were outside his ears and he had really tall tines. When his dad finally arrived, they counted 18 points, then 20, and finally came up with a total of 22 points.
News traveled fast about the monster buck, and soon a dozen of their neighbors had gathered to congratulate Joseph and admire his fine trophy. They also told Joseph about how they had seen the buck on game cameras on their properties since summer. Apparently, the big buck had remained hidden all season until that fateful afternoon.
“I’m still wondering if this was all just a dream,” Joseph Blalock added.