Landowners file suit against MDWF&P over dogs on private land

On February 2, 2015 three plaintiffs filed suit in Hinds County Chancery Court against the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the Mississippi Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and Sam Polles, in his official capacity as Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks.  You can read the plaintiffs’ complaint here.

The plaintiffs claim that dog hunters have caused free ranging hunting dogs to cross their land and the MDWFP has failed to take any action to prevent these dogs from intruding on the property of the plaintiffs.  Plaintiffs also allege that the MDWFP has failed to implement a system of permitting and fines to reduce or eliminate the problems of which plaintiffs complain.  The plaintiffs’ legal theories are based on public nuisance, an unconstitutional taking of their property, civil trespass, and private nuisance.

Plaintiffs prayer for relief states

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My Take:    This case is a dog that won’t hunt.  The plaintiffs will soon learn about something called the Mississippi Tort Claims Act that applies when you sue the State of Mississippi for money.  Assuming they complied with the notice provisions, there are several other provisions which they will soon find problematic.  For example:

§ 11-46-9. Exemption of governmental entity from liability on claims based on specified circumstances

   (1) A governmental entity and its employees acting within the course and scope of their employment or duties shall not be liable for any claim:

   (a) Arising out of a legislative or judicial action or inaction, or administrative action or inaction of a legislative or judicial nature;

   (b) Arising out of any act or omission of an employee of a governmental entity exercising ordinary care in reliance upon, or in the execution or performance of, or in the failure to execute or perform, a statute, ordinance or regulation, whether or not the statute, ordinance or regulation be valid;

   (c) Arising out of any act or omission of an employee of a governmental entity engaged in the performance or execution of duties or activities relating to police or fire protection unless the employee acted in reckless disregard of the safety and well-being of any person not engaged in criminal activity at the time of injury;

   (d) Based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a governmental entity or employee thereof, whether or not the discretion be abused;

   (e) Arising out of an injury caused by adopting or failing to adopt a statute, ordinance or regulation;

….

   (g) Arising out of the exercise of discretion in determining whether or not to seek or provide the resources necessary for the purchase of equipment, the construction or maintenance of facilities, the hiring of personnel and, in general, the provision of adequate governmental services;

   (h) Arising out of the issuance, denial, suspension or revocation of, or the failure or refusal to issue, deny, suspend or revoke any privilege, ticket, pass, permit, license, certificate, approval, order or similar authorization where the governmental entity or its employee is authorized by law to determine whether or not such authorization should be issued, denied, suspended or revoked unless such issuance, denial, suspension or revocation, or failure or refusal thereof, is of a malicious or arbitrary and capricious nature.

 

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Can a convicted felon legally hunt with a muzzle loader in Mississippi?

Not a hunting season goes by that someone doesn’t ask me this question so I figured it would be helpful to put the answer in writing for any convicted felons that might be considering hunting with a muzzle loader.

With respect to federal law, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has a handy Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions section on their website.  The number 1 question is “Can a person prohibited by law from possessing a firearm acquire and use a black powder muzzle loading firearm?”  The ATF’s response is:

The Gun Control Act of 1968 (GCA) prohibits felons and certain other persons from possessing or receiving firearms and ammunition (“prohibited persons”). These categories can be found at 18 U.S.C. § 922(g) and (n) in http://atf.gov/publications/download/p/atf-p-5300-4.pdf. However, Federal law does not prohibit these persons from possessing or receiving an antique firearm. The term “antique firearm” means any firearm (including any firearm with a matchlock, flintlock, percussion cap, or similar type of ignition system) manufactured in or before 1898. The definition includes any replica of an antique firearm if it is not designed or redesigned for using rimfire or conventional centerfire fixed ammunition, or uses rimfire or conventional centerfire ammunition which is no longer manufactured in the United States, and which is not readily available in ordinary channels of commercial trade. Further, any muzzle loading rifle, shotgun, or pistol which is designed to use black powder or black powder substitute, and which cannot use fixed ammunition, is an “antique firearm” unless it (1) incorporates a firearm frame or receiver; (2) is a firearm which is converted into a muzzle loading weapon; or (3) is a muzzle loading weapon which can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof. See 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3), (a)(16). Thus, a muzzle loading weapon that meets the definition of an “antique firearm” is not a firearm and may lawfully be received and possessed by a prohibited person under the GCA. In addition, the GCA defines the term “ammunition” to mean “ammunition or cartridge cases, primers, bullets, or propellant powder designed for use in any firearm.” Because an “antique firearm” is not a “firearm,” it would is lawful for a prohibited person to receive or possess black powder designed for use in an “antique firearm.” Also, the Federal explosives laws do not make it unlawful for a prohibited person to acquire and possess black powder in quantities not exceeding fifty pounds if it is intended to be used solely for sporting, recreational, or cultural purposes in “antique firearms.” See 18 U.S.C. § 845(a)(5) By contrast, a prohibited person may not receive or possess black powder firearms that can be readily converted to fire fixed ammunition by replacing the barrel, bolt, breechblock, or any combination thereof. ATF has classified certain muzzle loading models as firearms. All of these models incorporate the frame or receiver of a firearm that is capable of accepting barrels designed to fire conventional rimfire or centerfire fixed ammunition. These muzzle loading models do not meet the definition of “antique firearm” as that term is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(16), and are “firearms” as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3). Furthermore, as firearms, these and similar models, regardless of the barrel installed on the firearm or provided with the firearm, are subject to all provisions of the GCA. Persons who purchase these firearms from licensed dealers are required to fill out a Firearms Transaction Record, ATF Form 4473, and are subject to a National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check. Felons and other prohibited persons may not lawfully receive or possess these firearms or ammunition.

The following is a list of weapons that load from the muzzle and are classified as firearms, not antiques, under the GCA, because they incorporate the frame or receiver of a firearm:

  • Savage Model 10ML (early, 1st version)
  • Mossberg 500 shotgun with muzzle loading barrel
  • Remington 870 shotgun with muzzle loading barrel
  • Mauser 98 rifle with muzzle loading barrel
  • SKS rifle with muzzle loading barrel
  • PB sM10 pistol with muzzle loading barrel
  • H&R/New England Firearm Huntsman
  • Thompson Center Encore/Contender
  • Rossi .50 muzzle loading rifle

This list is not complete and frequently changes. There may be other muzzle loaders also classified as firearms. As noted, any muzzle loading weapon that is built on a firearm frame or receiver falls within the definition of a firearm provided in 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(3). Finally, even though a prohibited person may lawfully possess an antique firearm under Federal law, State or local law may classify such weapons as “firearms” subject to regulation. Any person considering acquiring a black powder weapon should contact his or her State Attorney General’s Office to inquire about the laws and possible State or local restrictions. A list of State Attorney General contact numbers may be found at www.naag.org.

As referenced in the third to the last sentence above, a state may also classify muzzle loaders as firearms subject to regulation.  That is exactly what an Attorney General’s opinion does in Mississippi. See 2004 WL 555121 (Miss.A.G.) Opinion No. 2004-0043, dated February 13, 2004.  The opinion states:

Office of the Attorney General

State of Mississippi

Opinion No. 20040043

February 13, 2004

Re: Possession of Weapons by Felon

Honorable Mark A. Maples

George County Prosecutor

362 Summer Street

Lucedale, Mississippi 39452

Dear Mr. Maples:

Attorney General Jim Hood has received your letter of request and has assigned it to me for research and reply. Your letter states:

Sheriff Garry Welford and I hve recently been asked a question about a convicted felon and a firearm, and we pose the following question:

Section 97-37-5 of the Mississippi Code, 1972, as amended provides:

“(1) It shall be unlawful for any person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this State, any other State, or the United States, to possess any firearm…”.

An individual in George County was previously convicted of burglary of a building and accessory after the fact to armed robbery. He received an eight-year and four-year sentence, respectively, and served a period of ten years before being discharged from the Department of Corrections custody. He is no on any type of parole or Department of Corrections supervision at this time. He wishes to hunt using a muzzle loading rifle or muzzle loading shotgun or bow and arrow.

Our question is this: Can a convicted felon possess (and consequently hunt) with a muzzle loading rifle, muzzle loading shotgun, a traditional bow and arrow, or a cross bow?

In response, Mississippi Code Annotated Section 97-37-5 provides:

(1) It shall be unlawful for any person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this state, any other state, or of the United States to possess any firearm or any bowie knife, dirk knife, butcher knife, switchblade knife, metallic knuckles, blackjack, or any muffler or silencer for any firearm unless such person has received a pardon for such felony, has received a relief from disability pursuant to Section 925(c) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, or has received a certificate of rehabilitation pursuant to subsection (3) of this section.

(2) Any person violating this section shall be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than Five Thousand Dollars ($5,000.00), or committed to the custody of the State Department of Corrections for not more than three (3) years, or both.

(3) A person who has been convicted of a felony under the laws of this state may apply to the court in which he was convicted for a certificate of rehabilitation. The court may grant such certificate in its discretion upon a showing to the satisfaction of the court that the applicant has been rehabilitated and has led a useful, productive and law-abiding life since the completion of his sentence and upon the finding of the court that he will not be likely to act in a manner dangerous to public safety.

The above quoted statute prohibits a convicted felon from possessing of any “firearm” among other weapons. Black’s Law Dictionary defines “firearm” as:

An instrument used in the propulsion of shot, shell or bullets by the action of gunpowder exploded within it. A weapon which acts by force of gunpowder. The word comprises all sorts of guns, fowling pieces, blunderbusses, pistols, etc.

It is the opinion of this office that a muzzle loading rifle or a muzzle loading shotgun is within the meaning of the term “firearm” as used in Mississippi Code Annotated Section 97-37-5. However, the statute does not include weapons such as a traditional bow and arrow or crossbow. Therefore, a convicted felon may possess (and consequently hunt with) a traditional bow and arrow or crossbow.

If we may be of further service to you, let us know.

Very truly yours,

Jim Hood,

Attorney General

By: David K. Scott

Special Assistant Attorney General

Long story short, while the ATF is ok with felons possessing some black powder muzzle loaders under federal law, felons are prohibited from possessing any type of muzzle loader under Mississippi state law.  If you have been convicted of a felony and intend to hunt in Mississippi, you are limited to the use of a bow or crossbow unless you have received a pardon for the felony, have received a relief from disability pursuant to Section 925(c) of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, or have received a certificate of rehabilitation pursuant to subsection (3) of 97-37-5.

A bad day on the water

Spring is here bringing with it slowly rising air and water temperatures.  As a result, more and more people are headed to local lakes and reservoirs for boating activities.  If you are one of them, be careful.  Mississippi requires persons born after June 30, 1980 to complete a Boating Safety Course to operate a boat.  So anyone roughly under the age of 34 should have taken a basic safety course to drive a boat.  

On the other hand, most anyone you see driving a boat over the age of 34 probably hasn’t taken the class.  Regardless of the safety class, boaters must also be on the lookout for other boaters driving while impaired.  Pursuant to Miss. Code. 59-23-5 ” A person who operates a watercraft in waters over which this state has jurisdiction shall be deemed to have given consent to submit to a chemical test or test of his breath for the purpose of determining the alcohol content of his blood, as a condition of operating the watercraft in this state.”  This is basically the boating version of the implied consent law applicable to motor vehicles on public roads.  Miss. Code 59-23-7 states:

It is unlawful for any person to operate a watercraft on the public waters of this state who:

   (a) Is under the influence of intoxicating liquor;

   (b) Is under the influence of any other substance which has impaired such person’s ability to operate a watercraft; or

   (c) Has eight one-hundredths percent (.08%) or more by weight volume of alcohol in the person’s blood based upon milligrams of alcohol per one hundred (100) cubic centimeters of blood as shown by a chemical analysis of such person’s breath, blood or urine administered as authorized by this chapter.

Some are under the mistaken belief that a boater can’t be charged with boating under the influence unless the blood alcohol content is .08 or greater, but the statute clearly has an “or” between sections (b) and (c).  This means it is unlawful to operate a boat under the influence of alcohol or any substance which impairs the ability to operate the watercraft or if the operator has .08 blood alcohol content or greater.

The Mississippi Supreme Court handed down the case of Hardy v. State of Mississippi, NO. 2012-KA-01970-SCT yesterday where an individual with a blood alcohol content below the legal limit was convicted.  The facts were tragic.  Brad Hardy was driving a small boat while standing up.  A witness testified:

Hardy came around Dead Man’s Curve and just turned . . . and hit the bank and went up onto
the bank . . . . He hit some boats, and then hit the bank, went up on the bank, and the boat
landed between two trees on the other side of the river.

The witness also testified “she overheard a little girl on the bank scream ‘you killed my daddy.'”   Hardy admitted drinking six beers, but was .01 below then then legal limit of 0.10 (now .08).  Nevertheless, Hardy was convicted of aggravated boating under the influence and manslaughter by culpable negligence.  The trial court sentenced Hardy to forty-four years with twenty-six to serve.  The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld the verdict and sentence.

This case brought back memories from seeing a friend die at almost the same location close to Ratliff Ferry over ten years ago.  My friend jumped off of the back of a pontoon boat.  As he swam in the Pearl River toward a sandbar, two ski boats rounded a curve at a high rate of speed following each other.  The first boat narrowly missed him.  Seconds later we heard the loud thud of the second boat striking my friend.  The propeller sliced up his body starting at his ankle and ending at his neck.

The boat operator in that situation was accompanied by his wife and small child.  I don’t know if he was ever charged or convicted, but he did have some amount below the legal limit of alcohol in his system when the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks officer administered the breathalizer.  I will never forget seeing the muddy brown water of the Pearl turn blood red.  A mother lost her son, a brother lost his brother and many of us lost a friend.  It was a bad day on the water.  I have never been back to that river and don’t intend to.

Be safe out there and watch out for the other guy.  He may be under the influence and he may have little or no training in the proper operation of a boat.

Weapon of Choice

Historically, Mississippi had a single primitive weapon season for deer.  It took place from December 2 until December 15.  Back then, we used black powder guns with exposed hammers and a little percussion cap for ignition.  Scopes with any level of magnification were prohibited.  Hunting in the rain was tough.  Sometimes the guns would fire and other times you didn’t get so lucky.  Cleanup consisted of soaking the barrel in a bathtub of hot water.  It made a mess that resulted in a few scoldings from my mom when I was young.

In the mid to late 80s, Knight Muzzleloaders came along and hunters started moving to inline muzzleloaders.  They were more reliable, but cleanup continued to be a pain in the backside.  A little later, magnified scopes were allowed for our primitive season.  With each step, the guns used became less and less primitive.

Around 2005, Mississippi passed legislation allowing some single shot rifles in .38 caliber or larger to be used.  The most common was the H&R Handi Rifle in 45/70.  Hunters rushed out to upgrade their weapons.  As the demand increased, the price spiked.  A few years later, the primitive weapon definition was modified from .38 caliber or larger to .35 caliber of larger.  Hunters again rushed out to upgrade their primitive weapons with the .35 Whelen being the most popular.  You would be hard pressed to find anyone that would call a Thompson Center Encore in .35 Whelen topped with a Swarovski a “primitive weapon.”

While the definition of primitive weapon was evolving, the number of primitive weapon seasons increased.  What was once limited to December 2 through 15 was expanded to include a new season at the end of January.  Then, an additional primitive “doe only” season was added in November for the week prior to open day of the traditional gun season.

Not content with a not so primitive weapon and a greatly lengthened primitive season, the Mississippi Legislature again decided to tinker with the allowable weapons for primitive season.  Beginning with the 2014-2015 deer season, House Bill 1139 modifies Miss. Code 49-7-31 as follows:

During any open season on deer with primitive
weapons after November 30, a person may use any legal weapon of
choice on private lands only, if the person is:
(i) The title owner of the land;
(ii) The lessee of the hunting rights on the land;

(iii) A member of a hunting club leasing the
hunting rights on the land; or
(iv) A guest of a person specified in subparagraph
(i), (ii) or (iii).

As a result, primitive weapons will be a thing of the past for most hunters on private land in Mississippi.  Hunters will be allowed use any weapon of choice on private land during the December and January deer seasons provided they own the land, lease the land, are a member of a deer club leasing the land or are a guest of someone that owns the land, leases the land or is in a deer club on the land.

The only deer season (outside of archery season) where a primitive weapon will be required will be the early “doe only” November season preceding the traditional gun season.  Is this the final step?  Doubtful.  Hunters want more opportunity (days) and want to hunt with their choice of weapon.  It probably will not occur in the next five years and maybe not in the next ten, but a complete weapon of choice season eliminating archery and primitive weapon seasons is on the horizon.  Hopefully there will be enough deer around at that time for us to continue hunting!

Looks like a few tickets were handed out

One of the interesting parts of having a blog is seeing the search terms people use to reach my site.  By the looks of the search terms, a number of people arrived at my site yesterday trying to find out the cost of a ticket in Mississippi for hunting doves over bait.  The answer to the question of “what does it cost?” is “it depends.”

It depends on which county you were in, it depends on whether the law enforcement officer that issued the citation is a state or federal employee and it could also depend on whether you were simply a hunter in a baited field or if you were the landowner than illegally baited a field to make a profit.  There are many considerations.

If you were issued a hunting related citation and think that it was unjustified, find an attorney that routinely handles criminal law in the area where you were issued the citation.  Our law firm does not handle criminal cases, but I can point you in the right directed of a good criminal lawyer if you do not know of one.

On the other hand, if you were wrong and know you were wrong, take your medicine.  Live and learn.  Next year, follow the brochures I discussed from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  I don’t doubt that there are legal ways to push the envelope, but if you stay within those guidelines you will not have to search the internet for the cost of a ticket.

2013 Dove Season in Mississippi

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The first hunt of the year is just around the corner.  Dove season opens in Mississippi on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 2:00 p.m.  You read that correctly.  The pastors of rural churches can hold their services in peace because there will be no opening morning hunt.

Every year, folks try to evade the baiting laws on dove and every year people get tickets.  If you have to think very hard to justify what you are doing to attract doves, it is likely that your field is illegal.  In the past month, members on various Mississippi hunting forums have expressed opinions or ideas about how to hunt doves.  Those ideas range from good to downright illegal.  One guy mentioned feeding doves by placing tarps containing wheat in the field and removing the tarps the night before the hunt.  That is about as illegal as you can get.  Pursuant to 50 CFR 20.11 (j) an area is considered baited for ten (10) days after all grain is removed.

So exactly what is legal when it comes to hunting doves?  Take a look at 50 CFR 20.11.   I would recommend reading the entire thing, but it that proves difficult for you, at least read this handy synopsis from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.  The Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks also has a brochure for dove field preparation.

There are a number of ways that a dove hunter can go astray of the federal rules and any of the following could result in a ticket:

  • placing rock salt out for doves
  • top sewing wheat at rates in excess of a normal agricultural practice
  • scattering shelled or cracked corn
  • hunting an area that was baited within the previous 10 days
  • scattering bird seed for doves

Those are just a few of the ways you could get in trouble.  It is easier to tell you how to legally hunt doves than think of every way to break the law.  For example, you could legally disk the ground and top sow wheat the the normal agricultural rate.  You could plant a wheat field, allow it to head out and then burn it a few weeks prior to season leaving wheat on burned ground.  You could plant sunflowers and begin disking strips to expose sunflower seeds a few weeks prior to the opening day.  Plant and harvest a millet field.  Plant a foodplot for deer at the recommended rate.

Recommended rates and normal agricultural processes are defined in Mississippi by the official publications of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.  Arguing to a wildlife officer that your field isn’t baited because farmer Jim down the road routinely plants wheat at one ton per acre for his cows isn’t going to work.

While you are shooting doves, remember that a dove is not worth shooting someone.  Beware of low birds or you could easily blind someone. Think about how often kids are the ones running out to pick up birds. How would you feel shooting a kid? Let the low birds go. This is particularly important in standing sunflower rows that can hide another hunter.

On a related safety note, take plenty of water in the field for kids and your four legged companions.   Kids and dogs can overheat in the hot sun before you know what happened if you aren’t paying very close attention.  Check out these tips from Sportdog about dogs and dove hunting.

Good luck everyone!

Gifts

In July 0f 2009, my wife gave me a couple of gifts.  First, her hand in marriage.  Along with that came another gift……a turkey caller.  At the time, I didn’t even know people getting married were supposed to give each other gifts.  Thankfully the ring I gave her was sufficient and she overlooked my ignorance of the “getting married gift.”

When she gave me the caller I didn’t have a clue who made it and I still don’t have a clue about it today.  Because of the nature of the gift, it has never been used it in the woods…….until this morning.  Last weekend I left my turkey bag with my hunting callers  in a friend’s truck.  He told me he was holding my “turkey purse” hostage until I got him a bird, but that is another story.

Last night I decided to hunt this morning so it was either break out the wedding caller or break into my friend’s truck to retrieve the turkey bag.  His truck glass survived Monday’s record setting hail storm so I figured it deserved a pardon.  After I had made up my mind to use the wedding caller, I located another caller made by Buford Harris that I had misplaced years ago.

With callers in hand, this morning started out decent enough.  Every type of song bird in the world sang as the darkness turned to light.  The cloud cover kept the turkeys quiet a little longer than usual.  At 7:15, I heard a gobble.  I made a few yelps with the wedding caller and then a few more with the Harris caller.  No response.  A short while later, another bird sounded off.  The bird I was hunting gobbled and drifted in the direction of the second gobbler.

With him safely away, I repositioned to where he had been gobbling.  A gave him another round of yelps followed by some purrs.  He gobbled about 250 yards out.  A short while later he was 100 yards out.  No reason to call now.  Yet a few more minutes and he gobbled about 50 yards out.  My only problem was that he was in a thick mess of pines with no way for me to see him.  I just scratched in the straw and leaves a bit.  That must have done the trick because he poked his head out looking for a hen directly in front of me at 32 steps.

The old NEF 10 gauge sent a load of Nitro 7s his way.  He didn’t run and he didn’t flap a wing.  It looked like he just tipped over.  I ran over as I always do to pick him up and said a quiet thank you to the Lord for a beautiful morning and a beautiful bird followed by a silent thank you to my wife for the caller.  As I type this she still doesn’t know that I used that caller to kill the bird.  However, I suspect she will read this and know that I am very thankful for all of my gifts from her.

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19.8 pounds, 9.5 inch beard and 1 inch spurs.  All in all it was a great way to start the day.

Bills Important to #MississippiSportsmen

Yesterday was the deadline for bills originating in the Mississippi House or Senate to pass out of Committee.  There were several bills of interest to sportsmen this year.  Like every year, bills to allow crossbows, baiting and expanded hunting with rifles were proposed.

As of yesterday’s deadline, the following bills of interest made it out of Committee:

  • HB1319 – Appears to allow weapon of choice (rifle, crossbow, bow and arrow, etc.) on private land during what has been traditionally the primitive weapon season.
  • HB102 – Allows the MDWF&P to designate areas within wildlife management areas for Wounded Warrior hunts.
  •  SB2048 – Allows use of crossbows during archery and primitive weapon season.

What died:

  • HB1032 – Required the MDWF&P to allowing baiting deer with corn.
  • HB77 – Removed the exemption from the purchase of a hunting and fishing license for those over 65.
  • HB424 – Required that retailers of ammunition maintain records of all sales to individuals.
  • HB162 – Required the MDWFP to allow use of golf cars on wildlife management areas subject to rules promulgated by the MDWF&P.
  • HB174 – Reduced the penalty for killing alligators out of season.
  • HB658 – Prohibited hunting within the city limits of cities exceeding 170k in population.
  • SB2036 – Would have required identification tags on all hunting tree stands.
  • SB2037 – Would have required boaters to wear a PFD while a boat under 26 feet was underway.

 

These bills still have hurdles to go.  The bills originating in the House must be approved by the entire House and then submitted to the Senate.  The bills originating in the Senate must be approved by the entire Senate and then submitted to the House.  All of the bills that make it that far must then be signed by the Governor.

My take on it……All of the bills that died should have died.  In fact, a couple of them were so ridiculous that they never should have been proposed.  Documenting legal ammunition sales?  ID tags of tree stands?  Force the MDWF&P to allow baiting deer?  All really bad ideas.

On the flip side, I am happy to see the Wounded Warrior bill pass.  These gentlemen and their families have survived far more than most of us can even imagine and deserve every possible opportunity at happiness.  Setting aside a little bit of public land to allow them to hunt is the least we can do.  As for using weapon of choice during primitive season, I really couldn’t care less.  Mississippi’s primitive weapon season is laughable.  There is nothing primitive about a .35 Whelen with a 3-12×50 scope on top that is capable of shooting 2 inch groups at 300 yards.  I kind of miss the old days when a primitive weapon was a traditional muzzleloader.  Back then it was really a crapshoot when you pulled the trigger.  The gun might go off just fine, the cap might pop and then a delay fire would occur a few seconds later or the gun might not fire at all.  It was exciting.

The bill likely to cause the most disagreement is no doubt  SB2048 allowing crossbows in archery season.  I really don’t care about crossbows or think that inclusion of them for archery season will ruin the season.  Likewise I doubt their approval will increase or decrease license sales or hunter participation one way or the other.  What I am worried about is that legalization of crossbows is the next step toward a four month weapon of choice hunting season from October through January.

Mississippi has an abundance of whitetail deer due to successful management by the MDWF&P and private land owners.  While abundant on a statewide basis, there are areas within the state that deer are scarce or at a minimum, there are significantly fewer deer than there were just 20 years ago.  These areas need a reduced harvest rather than expanded opportunity for an even larger harvest.

Currently, deer harvest numbers are not accurately recorded and with the exception of the 3 zone antler restrictions there is no management of deer tailored to specific areas.  Needless to say, there is a significant difference between deer density in Port Gibson and Poplarville and they should be managed differently.  However, that isn’t about to happen any time soon because while the idea of telecheck has been floated in Mississippi for a number of years, it has yet to gain traction.  Maybe one day.  Until then, hopefully private landowners will do their part to protect and conserve the resource.

#70 falls to the Browning

I started hunting deer before my teens.  My grandparents and uncle had a camp close to the Mississippi River out from Vicksburg and I was allowed to guest hunt there.  Needless to say deer were plentiful and in between my naps in the deer stand, it was a heck of a lot of fun chasing them around with with grandpa, Uncle Bubba and my cousins.  My first deer rifle was a .270 and dang near as long as I was tall.

As soon as I was old enough to drive I got a job and shortly thereafter joined my first deer camp in Utica, Mississippi.  To make a long story short, lets just say the .270 let me down a few times.  In all likelihood it was the Indian and not the arrow, but since this is my story I will tell it how I remember it.  Anyway, I decided to go with a more suitable rifle.

My dad and I loaded up and headed off for the gun show where we traded the .270 for a little bigger gun.  It was an 8mm magnum to be precise.  From that point forward I have been fascinated with larger caliber deer rifles.  There is no doubt that smaller caliber, non-magnum rifles will get the job done (with the exception of the .270.  I still hate that gun and find it of use for nothing other than squirrels).  However, I really like the added margin of safety the big guns bring.

Fast forward another year.  All of my friends that hunted were moving towards Browning A-bolts with a Leupold 3-9×50 scope on top.  I wanted one……..alot!  After saving up all my cash from working, I had a grand total of $1000.  Not $1001 or even $1000.01.  Since I was still well under 18 and couldn’t buy a gun, I called my dad to ride along and sign the necessary paperwork.  We arrived at the store I generally traded with and they ran down a parts list.  Browning A-bolt in .300 Win. Mag, Leupold 3-9×50, scope mounts, and a box of shells.  Check, check, check and check.  Out the door price would be $1060.

Even back then I tried to bargain.  That comes from my papaw.  The man could sell popsicles in Antarctica.  Unfortunately, not enough of his bargaining skill passed down to me or the fella behind the counter figured that my dad and I would give in on the extra $60.  My problem was that I didn’t have an extra $60 and come hell or high water, this was going to be the first gun I purchased entirely by myself.  So off we went to another local store.  I explained my dilemma to the man behind the gun counter and he smiled.  A handshake and short time later, I left with exactly the gun and scope I wanted, 2 boxes of bullets, a sling, a fist full of targets and had $40 left over.  Until that store closed earlier this year, I remembered how nicely they treated me as a kid and always bought things there.

That Browning gun was the death of many a deer over the years.  69 deer in fact.  For each one, I cut a little notch in the stock.

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Sometime a bit over 10 years ago the “get a bigger gun” bug bit me again so I bought a 7mm Remington Ultra Mag and put the Browning in the gun safe.  For the last couple of years, I thought about pulling the .300 out of retirement and taking it hunting.  After much procrastination, I got it sighted in this year and took it along a few times without success.

On December 29, 2012, my luck changed.  My best friend asked if I wanted to go with him to another friend of our’s place not far from our deer camp.  It didn’t take too much arm twisting.  I joked around that “today was going to be the day for number 70 with the old Browning.”  As it turned out, I was right.

We got there around 3:00 and a flock of turkeys greeted me at the stand.  I counted over 20 before they started moving off.  About 30 minutes later, a smaller flock come back out yelping and kee-keeing.  After they moved off, a group of does came through.  I pondered whether number 70 should be a big fat nanny doe, but decided against it.  Shortly thereafter, that big fat nanny doe moved directly downwind and started blowing.  I don’t mean she blew a couple of times and eased off.  She stood behind a tree and blew for what seemed like an eternity alerting every critter in northwest Hinds County.  She continued to blow as she ran off the length of a few football fields.  At that point my perceived probability of success was somewhere around negative 30.

As luck would have it, three more does came out a short while later.  They walked close enough that I expected them to spook at any moment, but thankfully they didn’t.

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They eased across a food plot headed toward a young fella that was hunting with us.  He hasn’t killed a deer this year so I sent him a quick text message to let him know they were headed his way.  As I put away the phone, my attention focused back on the does feeding.  A few minutes later, I heard a faint iiiick, iiick to my right.  When I turned my eyes to see what it was, there was a buck standing 20 feet away.  Not just any buck, but a buck we caught on video for the last two years.  He was picking up leaves where the does had been standing and rolling them around in his mouth like a chew of tobacco.  It was this love struck buck’s unlucky day.  I shouldered the .300 and waited for him to take a step into a small opening while telling myself “don’t screw this up” a couple of times.  With the squeeze of the trigger he was off on a death run.  I gave him a little time and eased down to find that the bullet had reached its mark.

Rather than immediately tracking down the deer, I backed out.  At the truck, I had a little fun with my friend telling him that I accidentally shot a spike.  After he was sufficiently red in the face, I broke the news that Big Willy was down.  We went back to camp and retrieved his Texas Blue Lacy dog, Rowdy, and came back to track the deer.  Rowdy is young and still learning, but he followed this track like the buck had a biscuit tied to his hindquarter.  All in all, it was a good day with great friends.

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Oh yeah, I got to scratch out number 70!  I hunted with it again this morning, but number 71 wasn’t to be.  Maybe next time.

 

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Who has the best #deersausage ?

The are a bunch of deer meat processors in the State of Mississippi.  Some are commercial beef or pork processing facilities like Wilson’s in Crystal Springs that also happen to process deer.  Others only process deer.  In Central Mississippi, I have tried Lee’s in Byram, Dwight’s in Raymond, Van’s in Pearl, Buck Shop in Pocahontas, Martin’s in Bolton and probably a few more that I cant remember at the moment.

By and large, my favorite is Martin’s in Bolton.  Stacy Martin turns out a fine product and he processes them one deer at a time so you always get your deer back.

Some of the other processors will batch process your deer with deer from other hunters.  When they do, you are rolling the dice on whether or not those other deer have been handled as carefully as you handled yours.  I just don’t like the idea of my deer getting mixed in with someone’s deer that rode around in the back of a truck for a week while the owner showed off the rack.

Despite how much I like Martin’s sausage and boudin, I always process a couple myself when I have a chance.  Rebel Butcher Supply in Flowood has some fantastic seasoning blends.  If you ever decide to process your own deer, drop by and talk with them.  They have a recipe for dang near anything you like regardless of whether that happens to be green onion, jalapeno, cheese, garlic or whatever else added to your sausage.

As for me, just pecan smoke and a little green onion added.

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