Mississippi’s deer herd and hunting status

It won’t be long now. Shots will be ringing out in the woods all across the state as the much anticipated deer hunting firearms seasons will commence before the end of the month is out. It is that favorite part of the whole year for tens of thousands of Mississippi outdoors people. Hunters, families, and friends gather in hunting camps in all 82 counties to live the best rituals of fellowship and outdoors sporting fun.

And for the retail suppliers of their needs as well this season signals the start of cash registers buzzing on through Christmas. Many outdoor stores across Mississippi rely heavily on hunting seasons for a big portion of their annual revenues. This not only includes deer hunting, which is No.1, but also waterfowl hunting, as well as small game hunting including rabbit and squirrel hunting. In fact, few times of year are better for fresh and saltwater fishing than the fall months.

Despite that the bow hunting season that opened up last month on the first of October and some youth hunting seasons have been held, the first gun season close to Thanksgiving is the state’s Holy Grail when it comes to deer hunting. To a big degree whether a valid observation or not, most of us deer hunters rely on the mindset that some element of surprise is ours in the first days of the opening volleys of gun season. One way or the other you can bet that thousands of hunters will be ensconced in deer camps opening weekend. But what will they find?

Post Flood Analysis

Back in May during the big Mississippi River flood and on into June as the water receded questions by hunters, wildlife managers, and whitetail biologists alike were asking the same questions. What did the flood do to the deer?

Early reports well before hunting seasons speculated that quite a few deer were lost during the flood. That is the harsh reality of such a devastating natural disaster. It was to be expected. Even so, the white-tailed deer is a highly adaptive and resilient animal. Most of the deer likely escaped the rising waters seeking out higher ground no matter how far away it was to be found. Deer were even seen on top of buildings, and on porches of houses just out of the water.

If our camp in Holmes County is any example of annual floods 4-5 times a year from the Big Black River, the deer are driven out to God only knows where. Then a day after there is nothing left but mud and trash covering the whole place. Alongside the cans, bottles, and general junk are fresh deer tracks. They come back home immediately.

I think our Delta deer have done the same thing.

Doubtless too, the floods also impacted the whitetail habitats, but plant life also has a way of making a speedy recovery. Perhaps the natural browse was a bit scarce in some areas and this may cause some uncharacteristically low deer body weights this season, but this too shall come back quicker than you think.

We probably won’t know the full extent of the flood’s impact on wildlife until hunters and state wildlife personnel have gotten boots on the ground and start to report back. If not this year, then I expect a quick recovery by next season. Let’s hope so.

Home to Mississippi’s Record Bucks

Serious deer hunters follow the registrations of big bucks in this state by checking out the Magnolia Records Program listings on the state wildlife web site at www.mdwfp.com. You can pull up big bucks by hunter name or county just to see the competition you are up against, but more importantly you can get a glimpse of the big buck potential in this state.

“To make the MRP ‘book’ a typical buck has to have a B&C score of at least 125 inches. Non-typical bucks must score at least 155 inches,” says MRP coordinator and originator, Rick Dillard, a Fish and Wildlife Program manager with the U.S. Forest Service.

The top MRP counties in the state include Madison (252), Claiborne (217), Yazoo (165), Hinds (159), and Attala (135) from the most current available data. You can see all this data in the annual deer data report on line or in the annual booklet published by the MDWF&P. To date some 5,800 bucks have been scored for the MRP and 3,700+ are listed in its official records.

Public Lands Bonus

Mississippi also has a tremendous resource when it comes to public lands open to hunting. This consists of roughly 2 million acres between national forests, state-operated wildlife management areas (some in national forests), national refuges, and lands under the management of the Army Corps of Engineers. This is a lot of ground to scout and hunt.

Mississippi’s WMAs are a huge benefit to hunters in terms of deer hunting. The top five WMAs for overall deer harvests include Bienville, Mahannah, Leaf River, Copiah County and Tallahalla. The most successful in terms of buck harvests include Choctaw, Leaf River, Bienville, Tallahalla, and Sandy Creek. If you are interested in taking a doe for the freezer, your best bet WMAs are Mahannah, Bienville, Upper Sardis, Copiah County, Caney Creek, and Tallahalla. See any trends here?

As we are pulling out our gear from obscure hiding places to pack in preparation for another deer hunting season, I think most hunters in most parts of the state will find our deer are in pretty good shape. So, let’s have a great time, hunt safe, wear hunter orange, buckle up those tree stand safety harnesses, know your target before you shoot, and thank God we live in a place with such a bounty of riches when it comes to outdoors natural resources.

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