deer season

Antlers big enough?

- District 1 Wild Management Areas require at least a 12-inch inside spread or one main beam at least 15 inches long.

“There will be more people in the woods this weekend than any time of the year, except maybe Christmas.”

– Dean Hudson, a state conservation officer in Monroe County

Hed: It’s deer season

- Today marks the start of the first gun season statewide.

By BUSTER WOLFE

Daily Journal

The busiest hunting time of the year begins today when the first deer gun season starts statewide. More than 150,000 hunters are expected to participate.

“There will be more people in the woods this weekend than any time of the year, except maybe Christmas,” said Dean Hudson, a state conservation officer in Monroe County. “Next week will be super busy because schools let out Friday and they’ll be out all week.”

The state’s deer herd is estimated at more than 1.5 million, so biologists are predicting an excellent season.

“We have had excellent fawning for several years and good survival during the summers,” said Chad Dacus, Deer Program coordinator for the state Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “The deer are plentiful. This may be the best year in many to spend some quality time in the deer woods.”

Antler size restrictions on state-run wildlife management areas have allowed deer to grow older and larger. District 1 Wild Management Areas require at least a 12-inch inside spread or one main beam at least 15 inches long.

Food shortage

In Northeast Mississippi, a lack of food has changed deer feeding habits. An Easter frost, coupled with the summer drought, has cut back the amount of mast, or vegetation.

“Deer are going to start seeking food earlier in that part of the state because of the poor mast crop,” Dacus said.

Although deer usually don’t go to food plots until all other food sources are exhausted, some have been seen on the plots. Hudson said several hunters who took their children out during youth season last week saw deer on food plots in the early afternoons.

MDWFP District 1 supervisor Randall Miller said deer have been more apparent this year.

“We’ve seen a lot of deer on the side of the road,” he said. “The food has either dried up or it’s too dang tough to eat, so they are looking for something.”

Safety first

The first weekend of deer gun season also brings one of the deadliest times of the year. The number of guns in the woods increases in the first gun season, which ends Nov. 30.

“Again we are asking hunters to use common sense when it comes to safety,” said Steve Adcock, MDWFP chief of law enforcement. “Target identification is critical before the firearm is ever shouldered, and stand hunters should use a safety harness while ascending, hunting and descending. Hunter orange is required for deer hunters, and should be worn by everyone in the woods during hunting season.”

Although recent storms have muddied trails and fields, Hudson said hunters should realize that the wooded areas remain dry.

Miller said incidents have included one firearm-related and two treestand accidents.

“It’s the first season and people are anxious to get out and get their deer,” Miller said. “A lot of people, however, are not going out until Monday, after the crowds die down.”

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks contributed to this report. Contact Daily Journal outdoors writer Buster Wolfe at 678-1576 or buster.wolfe@djournal.com.