Mississippi deer hunter reflects on lifetime of hunting

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, October 18, 2022

FRANKLIN COUNTY — Lifelong Hunter Andy Zimmerman has a lot of stories to tell from the 69 years he has hunted deer. Once a young man, he got his start by being a target shooter before hunting at the age of 17. 

His fondest memories of the woods are the times spent with family, friends and his dogs. A lot has changed since then. 

Franklin County has transformed in the types of deer hunters who come in. Many of them are from out of state or are individuals looking for a place to hunt. He recalls a time where he and 32 family groups hunted a tract of 35,000 acres. The style of hunting has shifted to more still hunters than dog hunters. 

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“When people were hunting with dogs you had groups of people who could socialize. They may miss a deer and you could rag on them if one killed one you chipped in and helped dress it out,” Zimmerman said. “Still hunting everyone goes to a stand and you lose so much of the family being together. You lose that community. I like dog hunting. I really enjoyed it.” 

Dog hunting was family oriented but it also provided more action. This was true for both running dogs and still hunting. 

He said while still hunters today are concerned with dogs running affecting the deer movement, back then they used them to stir up the deer in mid morning. Typically, deer bedded down at that point. 

Each morning hunters would still hunt until about 8:30 or 9. Then they would sic hounds and beagles on the deer and by afternoon the still hunting would be good. 

Dog hunting is a challenge for hunters. They have to make a quick shot decision and lead their targets like a wingshooter leads a bird. It was also an educational experience about how deer work, he said. 

When a dog jumps a buck, the deer runs in a small circle and tries to jump a doe and quits running, Zimmerman said. It is rare for a dog to bay a deer. Causing deer to stir leads them to trying to get back to those core food areas. 

A few things have caused the decrease of hunting with dogs. There is an expense to keeping a pack of dogs and only being able to run them a couple weeks out of the year. People also need land to use dogs effectively and hunting has become more of a competition and individually based, he said. 

Dog hunting has left some precious memories like his beagle named Dixie who was a house pet for most of the year. She was one of the few dogs he knew who could bay a deer. He got her from a man who shoed horses for a living. 

“He said she wasn’t worth anything because his little daughter took to dressing it and putting her in a stroller,” Zimmerman said. “I bought Dixie for $25. By the time the season started she was about six months old. I carried her out with me. She jumped a deer on her own and did pretty good that first season. I could call her name and point where I thought she should go and she would. If she jumped a doe I would get her on a buck. She was a once-in-a-lifetime dog and played like a puppy to the day she died.” 

His brother had an old hound who would go back to the house if he was turned loose and refused to cross roads because he had been hit by a vehicle before. 

Deer hunting has changed some. What used to be a community event has turned to people trying to get little advantages over each other. Everyone wants to kill the big buck and have a wall hanger. 

He said people will lie about what they see in a stand because they don’t want to give away information about bucks. 

“I hate to see how it has changed. I miss being around with a group of people and the camaraderie,” he said. 

His .270 ruger has killed many deer including one buck he had to shoot twice because he wasn’t sure which end was which when it turned broadside. Another was shot at 300 yards with a strong cross wind. He had to calculate his shot like a sniper would. 

That .270 was his pride and joy as it could shoot a tight group at 500 yards. At 100 yards, the 130 grain core-lokt Remington .270 could shoot clean through the bullet hole in a target. Accuracy is what he loved the most. 

Once he had a pair of coveralls with a bottle of rut scent that leaked in one of his pockets. He was about to go hunting when a call came to the house about a fire at the telephone company office. He rushed out to it to find it was just a burned up belt and rushed back to the woods with a .270 auto. 

Sitting on an old limb, he heard what he thought was an armadillo. He looked left and saw nothing and looked right to a massive eight point. As he eased his gun around the deer took off across the field. 

“I said big boy you are going down and I got him in the hip and got him again. I had the deer back to the house before I realized how big he was. He had a 28-inch spread and was 18 inches from the tip to tip. He was huge,” he said. 

Dog hunting helped formulate his thinking when he hunts. It has given birth to a theory he has about hunting and deer. He believes deer come into the world with certain characteristics etched in like how a doe knows to hide her fawn. 

“Other than that they are like a computer disk. We write certain things in their code. If you jump them with a dog and they get away, a buck thinks, ‘Hey these are my paths to escape.’ We write that tablet,” he said. “For still hunters, if you go to the stand and you have a buddy you can ride with on a four wheeler, have him go on ahead of you. There is a better chance of a deer coming through earlier in the day. If you stop there every day he will know you are there or not. Deer hunting is more about out-tricking them.”