The wait is over: Miss-Lou hunters return to camps for start of gun season

Published 12:01 am Sunday, November 18, 2012

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Ken Verlander cuts up meat for lunch Saturday morning at the Cedar Grove hunting camp near Natchez State Park. Verlander is one of several club members who went hunting on the first day of gun season.

NATCHEZ — Most folks had their toys wrapped and ready to go for months, but some hit the stores for a bit of last-minute shopping Friday afternoon.

It was the eve of the big day in the Miss-Lou, and although the man in red is still a month from sliding down local chimneys, it still felt like Christmas to many outdoor lovers.

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Albert Jamison looks at a rifle Friday afternoon at Sports Center before deciding on a CVA Apex .35 Whelen as an early birthday present. Jamison was purchasing the gun before the opening of gun season which was Saturday.

Gun season opened Saturday, and for the first time this season, adult hunters were allowed to take their rifles into the woods and look for big bucks.

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But the start of hunting season means more than just killing deer, and the members of the Cedar Grove hunting club, including former Natchez mayor Jake Middleton and landowner Jerry Winters, were just happy to be back at the camp Saturday morning.

“Hunting in this area has always been big,” Winters said. “It’s traditional, and everybody looks forward to it.”

The boys of Cedar Grove did not have much luck on their first trip to the woods Saturday morning, however.

None of the hunters left the woods with a deer, but the excitement of the days leading up to opening day kept their spirits high.

“I’ve been hunting since I was 6 years old,” club member Bitt Hammons said. “It’s like Christmas morning for us. After the season closes on Feb. 1, we start counting down the days until this day.”

A little further north on U.S. 61, longtime hunters Bruce Laird and Ray Simpson were in the woods at their camp in Fayette. Laird left the woods to go fishing Saturday morning, but Simpson used patience to best his friend on their first hunt of the season.

“It was cool this morning, and I got in the stand early — at around 6 a.m. — and did not see a deer,” Simpson said. “But at about 8:20 a.m. a switch was flipped, and I saw deer non-stop until this one at 9:37 a.m.

“I normally don’t stay that long, but there was something about this morning and seeing so many deer, so I stayed and got lucky, and he made a mistake.”

The buck Simpson saw was an eight-point buck with a 20-inch rack.

“It’s probably the best buck I’ve ever killed, and I’ve killed a lot of them,” he said.

It may have been the thrill of opening weekend that kept Simpson in his stand a bit longer than usual, he said.

“I’ve killed a lot of deer through the years, but opening morning is special. I don’t know how to explain it. But this was my first deer hunt of the year, and it’s real exciting to kill one on opening morning.”

Laird said he was OK with not getting a buck Saturday morning, and many of the older hunters are not always in it for the thrill of the kill anymore.

“I didn’t see one worth shooting,” he said. “I saw one buck and a few does. We just have a lot of fun. All of us have known each other for years, and me and (Simpson) have been friends and hunting since we were 7 years old. It’s just great being with friends.”

Laird said preparing for the start of deer season is almost as big of a task as hitting the woods and shooting.

“It’s huge around here,” he said. “Most of our guys have been getting ready for months, working on stands, food plots and the normal stuff you do. Today is the day we all wait for, and as far as I look at it, it’s an industry. There’s no telling how much money people spend. We load up in Natchez with all kind of stuff. It’s good for the economy.”

Outfitters across the Miss-Lou were packed with last-minute shoppers Friday afternoon, and Natchez-native Albert Jamison found himself at Sports Center looking for a birthday present.

Jamison, whose birthday is Nov. 25, works on an oil rig overseas, and flies out today, but he went ahead and bought himself an early gift on his last day at home.

Jamison did not kill a deer with his new weapon Saturday, but enjoyed opening day anyway.

“The best part is getting to be one with nature and listening to the birds and all the different sounds you hear,” he said.

But he still fired his gun a couple of times.

“I sighted it in (Saturday) morning, and after the hunt I shot it a couple times.”

Gun season will remain open until Nov. 30 in Mississippi and Dec. 7 in Concordia Parish. In Mississippi the season will start back Dec. 24 and last through Jan. 17. In Concordia Parish it will begin again Jan. 7 and last until Jan. 20.