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.

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#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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