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Food plots for wildlife paid off this year

It seems the first gun season for deer in my area has been a success. Although I am recovering from my hip replacement surgery done a few weeks ago and am not quite up to the rigors of camping and hunting, I have been serving in an advisory capacity while my son Mabry spent a few days of camping with my grandsons Eric and Andy.

Rain set in after one day of hunting and was so steady and severe that most of the fellows around here abandoned camp and did not go back until the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

That proved to be just fine for Andy since he was fortunate enough to bring down a really fine buck that we are pretty sure was at least three and a half years old. It sported a very distinctive rack. Though it had only six points, it was very heavy and widespread. It was a deer anyone would be proud of. It weighed in at just over 200 pounds and was in excellent shape, indicating that it had everything needed for healthy growth and good antlers.

It has become evident to most of us who hunt the upper Delta that the drought this past summer greatly reduced the natural browse in our woods. Almost everywhere behind the levee you can see quite a long way at ground level. Low-growing plants that deer use are pretty much gone. The deer have used manmade food plots and ordinary farm crops, resulting in well-fed healthy animals.

In areas without food plots or acreages of soybeans, corn or winter wheat, the deer are going to have to range out much further than normal. I suspect those unbelievers who don't plant food plots will see times later this winter when their deer move away from their normal ranges to partake of food that is available elsewhere. I am not knowledgeable enough to predict whether or not the deer will return to their original ranges. I can say for certain that individuals and hunting clubs that have provided deer year-round food are smug in the knowledge that they have taken care of the emergency. They can sleep well, knowing they have done what needed to be done.

The most interesting thing about wildlife habitat along the Mississippi River is the huge number of turkeys that have hatched and survived. Driving the roads at certain times is a wonderful experience for dedicated turkey hunters. It has not been uncommon to see several droves of 20 birds or more over a couple of miles traveled.

It will be almost two years before hunters in Mississippi can take gobblers from this hatch, but it is nice to know that there ought to be lots of long beards in the spring of 2002.

Dedicated fall hunters can take a few of this hatch if they are lucky. It is my fervent hope that I will be able to try them in the December segment of our fall season. Nothing in the outdoor world stirs my blood to the boiling point like a well-scattered drove of yearling gobblers trying to get back together.

I noticed with interest that the Delta Wildlife Foundation magazine carried a nice article on fall hunting by a fellow who is as hooked as I am on the game. I am grateful that our fish and wildlife people give us this season on lands along the river in the Delta. There is absolutely no way that short open seasons can damage the turkey population. In fact, I am just as certain that this is helpful since it helps keep the birds wild and may help keep them from gathering in large droves. It has long been known that serious die-offs of turkeys occur when you have a large population that gathers in huge groups. When one bird becomes infected with a fowl disease, the entire flock is exposed.

I am perfectly willing to help reduce their number by bagging a couple this December and am looking forward to trying to hunt a bit.

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