In the United States, the majority of big-game hunters use centerfire rifles during the general deer hunting season. While there are many advantages to hunting with a centerfire rifle, the general deer hunting seasons are often the shortest and most crowded. Luckily, there is a way around these hurdles: hunting during the archery or muzzleloader seasons.

While every state is different, hunting with a bow or a muzzleloader will increase (sometimes significantly) the length of your deer hunting season. For instance, last year in Texas, the deer archery season generally ran from Sept. 27 to Oct. 31. The general rifle season ran from Nov. 1 to Jan. 4. Muzzleloader season was open Jan. 5-18.

At about nine weeks long, Texas has a long general deer season. However, by hunting during the archery and muzzleloader seasons in addition to rifle season, one could increase the amount of hunting time by an additional 6.5 weeks. That's approximately a 75 percent increase to your deer hunting season length.

In other states, the difference is even more profound. For instance, in Washington, the rifle season for deer is only 18-22 days long (depending on whether you're hunting white tail, black tail or mule deer). The archery and muzzleloader seasons combined are 8.5 weeks long.

Another often overlooked advantage to hunting during archery or muzzleloader seasons is that some states offer increased bag limits or more permissive definitions of "legal deer." For instance, Washington only allows rifle hunters to take does in a few Game Management Units (GMUs). However, the state allows hunters to take any deer in most GMUs during archery or muzzleloader seasons.

Additionally, hunting during archery or muzzleloader season also offers the advantage of hunting with a much smaller population of hunters. While it varies from state to state, the number of hunters using a bow or a muzzleloader may be as low as 10-20 percent of the number of hunters using a modern firearm. This means that the woods will be much less crowded, especially on public land.

Also, the archery and muzzleloader seasons are often (though not always) before the general firearms season. It's a well known fact that deer start to become much more shy and elusive after experiencing significant hunting pressure. By hunting during archery or muzzleloader seasons, you can have a few weeks of hunting before the deer start reacting to pressure from the masses of hunters who descend on the woods during the general firearms season.

Yes, there are some limitations involved with hunting with a bow or a muzzleloader when compared to a modern firearm. However, the additional benefits of doing so may be worth the investment of time and money necessary to become a proficient with using a bow and/or a muzzleloader.

In addition to increasing your odds of having a successful hunting season, using a bow or a muzzleloader also gives you opportunity to spend more time enjoying the outdoors. What's wrong with that?