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Scoring program helps manage deer herds
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hunters who bag a great buck now have another shot at the attention they deserve through a recognition program that honors quality deer across the state.
The Magnolia White-Tailed Records Program was started in late June to serve as an unofficial record book for white-tailed deer in Mississippi. It is a joint effort of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Marty Brunson, leader of wildlife and fisheries for Mississippi Sate University's Extension Service, said the program recognizes quality animals and will serve as a deer management tool.
"This is a record book for white-tailed deer, and the honor consists of being recognized in the record book," Brunson said. "When animals qualify for the Magnolia White-Tailed Records Program, vital the information about the animal will be entered into a database maintained by the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks' deer management program."
Brunson said this information will allow biologists and managers to learn what kinds of deer are available in the state and to establish comparisons for counties. Deer are listed by county and then ranked by size. Hunter's names and the date of the kill are also given.
"The Coast, for example, doesn't have the potential for big antlers that the Delta does," Brunson said. "The record book levels the playing field and gives us the opportunity to showcase deer from different geographic and soil type regions."
Brunson said more than 600 deer have been entered in the program since it began June 23. Entry costs nothing, but hunters are required to bring antlers or mounted deer to an official scorer for certification. Deer in the typical antler category must score a minimum of 125 inches to be included in the record book. Those in the non-typical category must score at least 155 inches.
Hunters must provide the date of the kill, the location of the hunt and certify that the animal was legally harvested. The record book is open to any deer, not just this year's animals.
Several public scoring sessions were held across the state this summer, but hunters can take their bucks at any time to an official scorer to be certified. Entries into the record book are only made at official scoring sessions, as the deer must be photographed after certification.
Official scorers were trained earlier this year and include Extension agents, biologists, wildlife managers and others. Standards for inclusion in the Magnolia White-Tailed Records book are lower than entry levels for national record books and were set as a minimum that would be fair across the state.
Any deer that is certified by Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young can be automatically entered in the Mississippi record book when the hunter brings the official score sheet and the deer to a scoring session.
"If a deer meets the minimum criteria, it is permanently in the record book, and the hunter will get a certificate for the animal and their name listed in the program," Brunson said.
Rick Dillard, fish and wildlife program manager with the U.S. Forest Service in Mississippi, developed the idea of the Magnolia White-Tailed Records Program.
"We wanted to honor the deer, not the hunter, and to recognize that there have been some tremendous deer harvested in the state of Mississippi," Dillard said. "By identifying specific areas where big bucks have been harvested, we can help set the expectations of hunters, and let them know what kind of deer their area is capable of producing."
Dillard said hunters must wait 60 days after the kill for the deer to be scored to allow time for antler drying. He suggested those who intend to have the animal mounted do so before having the animal scored, as mounted deer look better than just antlers in the record book photos. He also encouraged residents to certify previously harvested deer, as this historical data will be a valuable resource to deer managers.
"The more than 600 deer in the program now are just a drop in the bucket for the number of deer we know are out there," Dillard said. "There's a tremendous number of deer out there in attics and hunting lodges that haven't been scored."
Two final scoring sessions are set for the fall and more will be held next year. Hunters can bring big bucks to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks office in Jackson on Oct. 27 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or to the Wildlife Extravaganza in Greenville from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 3.
Learn more about the Magnolia White-Tailed Records Program online at www.mswildlife.org/records.html.