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Some hunters prefer a more difficult shot

NATCHEZ — Bob Mills is not the average 21st century hunter.

He does not hop on his four-wheeler each morning, cruise to a tree stand and wait for a trophy buck to walk by before shooting it with a high-powered rifle.

Instead Mills heads out on foot at his usual hunting spot at St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge, walks sometimes three miles and tracks a deer until he can hit it with his long bow or a muzzleloader rifle.

“You have to be a better hunter,” Mills said about using primitive weapons. “You have to do your homework and get as close as possible.”

Mills is from Pearl, but he comes to the refuge to enjoy its prolonged primitive weapon season, and limited rifle season, he said.

“You don’t hear rifles all the time,” Mills said. “That keeps a lot of people out of the area. (The refuge) caters to my style.”

Mills, 65, said his age has forced him to add a little technology to his muzzleloader.

“I went to a scope on it, but I still like the muzzleloader,” he said.

The second Mississippi primitive weapon season opens Jan. 18, but primitive weapon enthusiasts do not have to wait that long to hit the woods.

The refuge provides an extended primitive weapon season that runs from Nov. 17-Jan. 6.

“Because of the weapons’ limited range and ability to harvest animals, we provide a long season without putting too much pressure on the population,” Refuge Manager Bob Strader said.

The refuge is also having a banner year with bucks largely due to the fact that the hunting season has been shortened two of the last three years due to high water, Strader said.

But Mills said the size of the deer, or it’s rack, is not really why he loves the refuge.

“You don’t hear traffic, and it’s about as secluded a place as you can find in the state,” he said. “I don’t use grunts or scents, and I will just go out for hours, and it takes even longer if I kill something.”

Mills has always preferred his style of hunting to using shotguns or modern rifles, even though he has tried all different types of weapons, he said.

Mills is not the only Southwest Mississippi hunter that enjoys muzzleloaders. In fact most hunters in the Miss-Lou have at least tried muzzleloaders.

“As far as muzzleloading hunters, there are a lot of them,” muzzleloader and historic weapons recreator Matt Avance said. “Every deer hunter in Adams County, Concordia Parish, Franklin County and Jefferson County probably has a muzzleloader of some type.”

Avance makes each of his muzzleloaders by hand starting with a piece of wood and a barrel, he said. He then creates them to the buyers’ specifications and a majority of them are used for hunting.

“I make the rifles for anyone that wants one, and most people use them to hunt,” he said.

When Avance had time to hunt, he preferred a muzzleloader as well, he said.

“It’s more of a challenge,” he said. “There’s a primitive aspect. It’s easy to shoot a modern rifle from 300 yards across an open field with a scope. With a primitive weapon there’s a lot more things you have to be conscious of, like getting closer game and honing your stalking skills.”

Primitive weapon season in Mississippi will be open Jan. 18-31. In Concordia Parish the season opens Jan. 21 and runs through Jan. 31.