Outdoors: Optima can minimize maintanence for hunters this season

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 9, 2003

With local enthusiasts eagerly anticipating the start of muzzleloading season in the Miss-Lou in a few weeks, Connecticut Valley Arms has a new value pack on the market to give hunters a monetary break.

The Optima, a 209 magnum break action muzzleloader, package ($198) comes equipped with such items as breech brushes, a speed loader, a pack of PowerBelt hollow-point bullets cleaning solvent and an instructional video.

The power and primer are sold separately.

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The excitement over the Optima surrounds its ease to be clean and the relatively inexpensive retail value, contrasted with that of similar firearms such as Thompson Center’s Encore, a significantly more expensive gun that allows hunters to interchange barrels with any caliber rifle they desire to shoot.

&uot;Hunters are very lazy,&uot; said Vernon Smith of Bowie Outfitters. &uot;They’ll walk 10 miles to get to their stands, but they don’t like spending time to clean their guns. With this, all you do is pop the breech plug out and run a rag through it.&uot;

Smith said the buzz over the Optima, and its big brother the Optima Pro &045; which comes with a few more bells and whistles &045; has been fluttering around for some time now.

&uot;They’re hot,&uot; he said. &uot;For the last three months people have been coming in here and asking about it even before we either had them in stock or sometimes heard about them. They’re hard to get. We’ve got several thank goodness.&uot;

Truly an understatement after Miss-Lou hunting received its second wind in late October after a local man harvested a 27-point non-typical beau buck with a bow south of Natchez.

Tracy Laird’s early morning present, which will be determined if it is a state record around Christmas, has given more substance to what many believe will be a fantastic year in the woods for whitetail.

&uot;People are seeing a lot of good deer when they’re out there hunting, but since they’re bow hunting the deer are too far away,&uot; said Peter Dale, manager of Bowie Outfitters. &uot;Whether it’s hunting or doing a weekend project, there have been a lot of sightings. I’ve witnessed many myself.&uot;

Dale chalks up the growing numbers to better cooperation among private hunting clubs throughout the area to maintain healthy and manageable numbers.

Once you figure in the impeccable upkeep of refuges such as St. Catherine Creek in Adams County Bayou Cocodrie in Concordia Parish and Tensas River in Tallulah, La., it is a magical concoction for hunters.

&uot;We’re due a good year. Statewide &045; and we’ve reflected this to some degree &045; the buck-doe ratio has been getting better and better over the last several years,&uot; Dale said. &uot;It’s raised the bar every year, especially on private clubs.&uot;

With one of the largest population of deer and hunters in the country, the necessity for sportsmen to practice good management principles is severely understated.

Too many hunters only care about one thing &045; i.e. horns &045; and prevent a young deer from maturing into a well-defined buck, which realistically takes approximately six years, Dale said.

&uot;If you understand the biology of it, a smaller, healthy herd has its advantages contrasted with an overpopulation,&uot; he said. &uot;We’ve got plenty of food supply in the area. There’s a lot of land here that produces some of the state’s top whitetail.&uot;

Dale added: &uot;Deer are a lot more susceptible to diseases when they get in that area. Food goes to their muscle mass and skeletal structure not their antlers, which is what many hunters care about. It’s basic survival at that point.&uot;

The hunting business has been a gold mine in Natchez over the past couple of months with everybody attempting to equal or better Laird’s buck.

Dale said this past week was quiet, but he explained it was just the calm before the storm.

&uot;It would not surprise me at all if someone else killed another huge deer in Adams County this year,&uot; Dale said in reference to Laird’s Goliath. &uot;We’ve been super busy the last two months, but this week has been quiet. We’re about to gear up big time. From here on to Christmas and New Year’s we’ll be slammed.&uot;