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Deer season predictions strong

All indications point to the 2012-13 white-tailed deer hunting season in Mississippi to be one of the best on record. Of course, the bow hunters have been in the woods since the first of October and some reports are already coming in of hunters observing lots of deer and taking a few decent bucks. Hunters should be getting their gear ready for the gun seasons, which open in November.


Prime Indicators

State deer biologist for the Central Region William McKinley has predicted a boom year (no pun intended) for deer hunters. I caught him on the “JT” radio show last month and he was as excited about the potential of this year’s season as any he can recall.


Deer hunters may ask why that is?

First and foremost as all deer hunters know we had a very mild winter last year. This created a perfect storm for the extra growth of natural browse and woodland food resources. Next came the spring rains that contributed even more to the abundance of lush food for deer and young fawns growing into the summer months.

Though it started to get dry again in some areas of the state into July and August, a large portion of the state continued to get occasional showers to provide water and food during the hot weather. This has allowed the deer to come into the fall months in good health.

McKinley pointed to this year’s acorn crop production, too. In fact, I had a call from a deer hunter contact in the Leakesville area that said there were a ton of acorns on his deer hunting camp and some already starting to drop. This will give deer a high-quality, high-protein, attractant feed for well into the winter months.

Growing conditions for hunter-farmer wildlife food plots have generally been favorable, too. We finally got our plots planted the last weekend in September followed by over five inches of slow rain. The selected seed mix of ryegrass, wheat and oats were well established and germinated quickly with the warm days of October.

The hunting trick now is going to be monitoring deer feeding habits up in the woods on acorns and how long those will last. Balancing that with keeping an observation on deer use of planted food plots is the deal as we go through the November to January deer season in most of the state and February in the southeast section.

Of course every deer hunter is now watching the weather and wind closely to know when and where to hunt. We all like a good cold snap to energize deer movement activity. Hopefully we’ll get that this year.


New Hunting Options

New this season will be a special early primitive weapons hunt including open hunting with crossbows. This season will open on Nov. 5 and end on the 16th right before the traditional opener of the first gun season. This hunt will be for antlerless deer only on private and open public lands.

Primitive weapons include the new classification of single shot, breech-loading centerfire rifles, .35 caliber or larger with an exposed hammer (check all regulations at www.mdwfp.com ), muzzleloaders and archery gear including longbows, recurves and compound bows. This special hunt will be a good opportunity for game management clubs to harvest some additional does early in the season.

The remainder of the deer hunting seasons pretty much follows the schedules we have had for years. There will be the regular gun season with dogs in November, December and January, then the “primitive” season for two weeks in early December, next the gun season without dogs from Dec. 15 until the 23rd, then a final primitive season from Jan. 18 until the end of the month or through Feb. 15 in the Southeast Zone. Certainly Mississippi hunters enjoy a very liberal deer hunting season.


Deer Hunting News Updates

Here are just a few quick stats on the deer population situation in Mississippi. The deer herd size is now estimated at around 1.75 million deer. Actually nobody really knows the herd size as you can imagine. I have seen it listed as low as 1.5 million to as high as 2 million. We have plenty of deer and too many in some places.

It continues to be an important deer management tool to hunt deer. Otherwise the herd could very easily get out of control, which results in over-browsing the natural resources or ultimately starvation and disease issues begin to crop up.

Deer hunters need to know there are now four regional deer biologists (North, Central, Southwest and Southeast) that can work with deer hunters and in particular deer camps enrolled in the DMAP assistance program. Currently there are 600+ camps in that program totaling some 2.5 million acres of private lands. Biologist’s names and phone numbers can be found on the state wildlife web site listed above under the Deer Program link.

Also deer hunters may have picked up this year’s “2012-2013 Hunting Seasons” flyer at various outlets. Take note that the Deer Zones in the state have been renamed from 1-2-3 to the Hill Zone, Delta Zone and Southeast Zone. Make sure you know which zone you are hunting in so you know the size restrictions for a legal buck for each zone.

This flyer has dates and other information for all the hunting seasons including waterfowl and small game so find a copy and keep it in the truck or camp. Also you should find copies of the “2012-2013 Mississippi Outdoor Digest” available at all outlets where hunting and fishing licenses are sold. This booklet contains more detailed hunting and fishing information for the entire year.

Us diehard deer hunters wait all year long for the chance to get back into the woods for some rest, relaxation, fellowship, communing with nature and maybe the chance to see a big buck. All this outdoors recreation impacts our state economy to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. That’s just one more good part of deer hunting for the State of Mississippi. Good luck and hunt safe. Oh, and take a kid hunting.

About John Woods

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