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Serving: United States

Whitetail deer made impressive comeback

I never cease to be amazed at the things I see and read about our wonderful whitetail deer. A recent article in the magazine Mississippi Game & Fish highlights deer hunting in my former home county of Tallahatchie, Miss., which takes in a considerable amount of hill land and an almost equal amount of Delta land. The story told of how Tallahatchie County is now producing large numbers of deer and bagging some of the nicest heads in the state.

I have misplaced the copy of the book that gives the names of the fellows who have come up with these trophy bucks, but the photos show that they are exceptional, some easily in Boone and Crockett class. I recall that one of the trophies was taken in the bottomland that encompasses Tallahatchie River, and one of them came from the hill portion in near the hamlet of Enid, Miss.

I find the tales of great interest because I grew up in that fine old county. My introduction to deer hunting took place there back in the early 1930s while I was still in high school.

What a difference a few decades make! I well recall that the first wild deer I ever saw was in the wooded region along Tallahatchie River proper in the neighborhood of Black Bayou and in the middle of the famous floodplain that was noted all over the country for its duck hunting. Many thousands of mallard used it since the river with great regularity flooded its great expanses of pin oak acorn woods and many acres of downed timber that had died due to constant flooding.

The grown men in the vicinity of Charleston had long before built a somewhat primitive camp house on the banks of Black Bayou. It was used all fall and winter, mostly by duck hunters, but sometimes by the same men who attempted to hunt deer when the woods were not flooded.

We youngsters were granted the privilege of hunting out of this camp. One hunt around Christmas, I encountered my first wild deer. A friend, Hayden Pritchard, and I took stands back in the woods near the river. As was almost always the case, however, Mr. Houston's fine old hounds failed to turn up a "race" and about noon we decided to give it up for the day.

Just a short distance from were we had been sitting, however, one of the dogs (a famous old hound called Belle) let out a bellow nearby. Before we knew it, a huge old doe crashed up out of a treetop and gave us a rear-end view as Belle took off in pursuit. I am glad neither of us had any chance for a shot, since the season was closed on does (although very few hunters paid much attention to the law back then).

We stood around listening to the dogs' cries until they disappeared in the vicinity of the camp site. Then faintly we began hearing shooting, obviously coming from more than one gun. Hurrying along, we arrived in camp to find that the doe had run right through the camp yard, and those present with guns all took shots at her as she took off across the shallow, frozen deadening that ran up to the camp site. According to witnesses, the ice would not quite bear her weight, but somehow she managed to stumble along and reach the refuge of dry land with heavy timber and was seen no more.

A couple of years later even the most dyed-in-the-wool deer hunters gave it up in Tallahatchie County. I recall hearing two or three old hunters claim that they had killed the last deer in Tallahatchie County. The odd thing is that those fellows made those statements in a bragging sort of way, as if they should have been rewarded for killing the last deer.

They may have actually killed the last deer in the county, but I doubt they did. Right after the end of World War II, deer began showing up in the county (as they did over much of the state, especially in the Delta bottomland). They may have migrated to some extent from the lower Delta, but I think not. The wily whitetail is a survivor and I am quite sure that a few of them hung on, and that the hunters mentioned above did not kill the last deer in Tallahatchie County.

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