By Bobby Cleveland/The Clarion-Ledger
JACKSON — Gun hunters would have more opportunities to kill deer in future seasons under a bill approved this week by the House Wildlife Committee.
The bill, by committee chairman Rep. Blaine “Bo” Eaton, D-Taylorsville, would change the deer season structure, including:
— Moving primitive weapon season to an opening day of Nov. 1.
— Shortening the archery-only season by nearly three weeks.
— Expanding still season — gun/without dogs — from eight days to as many as 35. Now only open from Dec. 16-23, the bill would provide two still hunting segments, Dec. 2-23 and from the close of gun/with dog season in January through Jan. 31.
The gun/with dog season would remain unchanged and still provide 39 total days.
“With the resources we have now, we need to take advantage of it and open the door for more hunting with the weapon of choice,” Eaton said.
The bill, which now goes before the full House, will face stiff opposition from the archery lobby.
Max Thomas, legislative liaison for the Mississippi Bowhunters Association, said the MBA is in opposition.
“We are opposed to the bill because we don’t want to see any loss of archery season, which will essentially end on Oct. 31,” Thomas said. “We have no stance on the change of the (Dec. 2-15) primitive weapon season or the late January season, since they are essentially gun seasons now with some of the guns they are allowing.”
Eaton said bows are allowed in all gun seasons, and his bill is about allowing weapon of choice for more hunters.
“I told the bowhunters last year that I was new at this (chairman) and wouldn’t make any changes until I had a better grasp of things,” he said. “Then I realized that they have from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31 to hunt with (their weapon of choice), and it was time to open the door to more users.”
Thomas said the MBA also opposes a section of the bill that would allow some Deer Management Assistance Program clubs to use guns during the archery season to help with antlerless deer harvest.
“When people see clubs using guns in the next few years, they will want to use them and then the October archery season will be gone,” Thomas said.
The bill is House Bill 1282.