The White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the most popular game species in Misissippi. Nationally, the white-tailed deer population likely exceeds 30 million. In Mississippi, the deer herd is estimated at 1.75 million animals, which is higher on a deer-per-unit-area basis (density) than any other state, and only Texas has a greater number of deer.
Our deer herds were nearly extirpated by the early 1900's when lack of game laws, coupled with market-hunting and deforestation, took their toll. Deer were restricted to a few thousand animals located in remote parts of the state. This situation was addressed with formation of the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission in 1932, and a deer stocking program was initiated that continued through the 1960s in certain locales. Bag limits, season lengths, and other important conservation measures were implemented to help rebuild the herd. Deer populations increased exponentially during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Deer production likely peaked during the early 1980s, and production, health, and habitat quality have since declined. Populations have leveled or declined slightly in certain parts of the state. In others areas, the herd is at or above carrying capacity.
According to hunter mail survey data from Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP), resident deer hunter numbers peaked in the late 1980s at about 200,000 and have declined since that time to about 160,000 for the 1998-99 year. Deer harvest by residents and nonresidents has followed a similar trend and totaled about 317,000 animals in 1998-99, based on hunter mail survey data.
Mississippi has one of the best deer management programs in the country. A long-standing relationship between Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) and the Mississippi State University Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has supported cutting-edge deer research for several decades. This research has led to important statewide programs, such as the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), whereby deer hunters and clubs collect harvest data that guide management to achieve club goals (about 2 million acres and 900 cooperators in 1998-99). MDWFP and other biologists coordinate and work with DMAP clubs. Herd health checks, habitat management on state Wildlife Management Areas, public hunting opportunities, hunter survey work, landowner site visits, public hearings and other methods are used to address the needs of both the deer herd and the publics in Mississippi.
Annually, Mississippi provides over 120 days of deer hunting. Deer season normally begins with archery season around the first of October. Hunters may use archery equipment during the gun seasons. During the last part of January, there is usually an additional archery-only season. Gun season (with dogs) normally opens the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The primitive weapon season is normally the first 2 weeks of December and is either sex. Gun (still, no dogs) season usually opens for about 2 weeks before Christmas and is followed by another gun season with dogs, which continues through mid-January. The buck limit is one per day, not to exceed three per license year, and only buck deer with antlers of four points or greater can be taken. The antlerless limit is one per day not to exceed three per license year, except two additional antlerless deer per license year may be taken with a bow and arrow. Antlerless deer can be taken during the archery splits, the primitive weapon split, and as designated by public notice. Check the season regulations book each year for current seasons, regulations, and bag limits.
Two of the biggest current threats to wildlife in our state are wild hogs and chronic wasting disease.
The current wild hog problem and confirmation of a CWD-positive deer this year in Issaquena County are examples of how the selfish actions of a very small segment of the hunting population can set off a negative chain of reactions that reach beyond the initial impact to wildlife species.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Shock. Disbelief. Denial. Anger. Acceptance. Get busy. This pretty much sums up my range of emotions after the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks released a statement that a 4-year-old buck tested positive for chronic wasting disease, or CWD, in Issaquena County last week.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Deer season is over, and prescribed fire, timber management, planting food plots and other habitat improvements come later in the year, but one activity that's perfect for February and early March is planting trees.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Although they are beneficial as a hunting tool to increase visibility, elevated tree stands come with many safety concerns.
Fortunately, it is easier than ever to hunt safely from trees. When using a tree stand, design choice and placement location are your most important decisions. Finding a healthy, large tree with no visible signs of damage or rot is essential when using fixed, permanent or ladder-style tree stands. These stands require a sturdy base to mount and climbing gear to reach ideal hunting height.
Gear ready? Check.
Hunter’s Safety Course & hunting license? Check.
Know the rules for your hunting spot? Check.
I’ve learned a lot about hunting since marrying into Mississippi 10 years ago. And whenever I really want to score points with my husband, I bring home information from MSU Extension experts. Now everyone can access science-based information whenever they want it, thanks to a new podcast, Deer University!