By Kevin Tate/Outdoors Writer
Mississippi’s hunters will be reaching for their firearms in a big way over the coming weeks as gun seasons for whitetail deer roll in, small game seasons hit full swing and waterfowl arrive on a cool north breeze.
As the state’s largest and most-hunted game, whitetail deer draw the lion’s share of the hunting public’s attention and retail dollars as well. Open for archery hunting since Oct. 1 and to primitive weapons enthusiasts in a limited way since Nov. 5, the first centerfire shots of the season were heard beginning Nov. 3 when youth season allowed hunters 15 years old and younger a first long-range crack at the herd.
The real rush to the woods begins Nov. 17, however, when legal bucks may be taken with any hunting method statewide.
Biologists with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks estimate the state’s deer herd at 1.75 million, and hunters bag roughly 280,000 deer per year. Beyond the countless tracts of private land that hold deer, the state has roughly 2 million acres of land open to the public for hunting. That acreage is contained in 42 state-owned wildlife management areas, nine national wildlife refuges, six national forests and thousands of prime hunting acres under the control of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The full swing of the season for small game hunters has begun, with squirrel seasons now open statewide through the last day of February. Rabbit season is well under way and continues through the end of February as well, and quail season is set to open Nov. 22 and run through the second day of March. Woodcock, it should be noted, are migratory and their season is governed by federal migratory game bird laws. Although they’re typically found along the same sloughs and streambeds canvassed by rabbit, squirrel and quail hunters, their season does not open until Dec. 18. The long open seasons offered by these resources continue to create new outdoors devotees every fall.
eyes on the skies
The state’s most avid waterfowl hunters have already had their season’s appetizer and salad, with a short teal season that took place in the latter half of September and an assortment of goose seasons available, but the main draw, the big ducks of the north, don’t enter the fray until later this month. Mallards, wood ducks, canvasbacks, pintails and other migrating royalty are open for hunting in three segments this year: Nov. 23-Nov. 25, Nov. 30-Dec. 2 and Dec. 5 -Jan. 27. Additionally, a special youth waterfowl weekend is set for Feb. 2-3.
For all rules, regulations and more, mdwfp.com is the place to start.