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.
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.
Wild hogs cost Mississippians millions of dollars each year, but landowners stand to lose more than money if the nuisance animals’ range and population continue to grow.
Left unchecked, wild hogs have the potential to steal property owners’ investments and cripple the state’s ecosystem in the process.
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- The Mississippi State University Extension Service will soon offer a weekly podcast that will be of interest to deer hunters and wildlife professionals in the Southeast.
Deer University launches May 11 and will be available to listeners free of charge on iTunes and at http://extension.msstate.edu/deeruniversity. Registration is the only prerequisite needed to listen and subscribe to the podcast.
by Sarah Buckleitner
MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Each spring the woods are littered with antlers as deer shed their old racks to make way for new sets, and these “sheds” may reveal hidden health problems in the bucks that drop them.
To learn more about these lucky finds, many people bring shed antlers to the Mississippi State University Deer Lab, which specializes in deer biology and antler formation.
While dressing a deer this fall, there are some common parasites you may encounter. None of these parasites actually affects the quality of the deer meat, but it is important to recognize what they are.
Have you ever noticed little wingless critters crawling around on a deer’s belly? Those are louse flies -- also called deer keds. The adult flies shed their wings and become flightless. While at first glance louse flies resemble small ticks, they only have six legs.