Magnolia State Deer Season Update

Magnolia State Deer Season Update

Several changes took place in Mississippi deer hunting last season. How did they work out -- and what do they promise for the future? Let's take a closer look. (July 2007)

Brett Caldecott downed his big 11-point buck on a Youth Hunt held in mid-November of 2006.
Photo by John J. Woods.

Most whitetail hunters know that deer seasons can run hot or cold. It's hardly a secret now that the 2006-07 edition was both, depending on where you hunted in the state and whether Lady Luck was with you or not. A full assessment of harvested bucks, along with overall statewide results, is still being tallied by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. It may not be until the annual Mississippi Wildlife Federation Extravaganza in August, when all the big-buck mounts show up for scoring, that we fully learn just exactly how well the season went.

SEASON SNIPPETS

Chad Dacus, MDWFP deer program coordinator, reported that his contacts during the season indicated that it was a pretty good year for deer hunters.

"According to some taxidermists," he said, "the bow season was one of the best they have seen in terms of quality and quantity. Multiple Pope & Young bucks were taken across the state. The rut was slowed by the warmer weather, so hunters did not see a lot of classic doe-chasing behavior."

One of the fine bucks collected this season was shot at nearly 300 yards by Brett Caldecott on Nov. 17, 2006, during the special youth season. That was Caldecott's last youth hunt, as he turned 16 in December. The buck sported 11 points, an 18-inch inside spread and 25-plus-inch main beams. It was taken to Mean Mallard in Jackson for scoring and yielded a gross score of 149 3/8 on the Boone and Crockett Club scale. Undoubtedly this buck is headed for the Magnolia Record Book.

The 2006-07 season did bring about a number of interesting changes in deer hunting regulations, as well as several new deer hunting activities. Let's have a look at some of those.

WHEELIN' SPORTSMEN YOUTH HUNT

Conducted Nov. 10-12 last year, this hunt was specifically created to give young people with disabilities an opportunity for a grand outdoor experience on a deer hunt. Twenty-five special youth hunters participate in the Wheelin' Sportsmen Celebrity Youth Hunt.

One of the main local sponsors of the event (held on private land near the city of Pearl, just east of Jackson) was the new Bass Pro Shops mega-store in Pearl. The Wheelin' Sportsman national program is operated by the National Wild Turkey Federation, which served to sponsor this hunt as well.

Some of celebrities joining in to help with the hunt were professional B.A.S.S. anglers, former National Football League players, Major League baseball players, a Professional Golf Association member, and world champion turkey caller Preston Pittman from Mississippi.

"Seeing these young people with smiles on their faces getting to do something they otherwise may not have the chance to do is what this program is all about," explained Kirk Thomas, national coordinator for Wheelin' Sportsmen.

One of the youngsters, 14-year-old Mary Beth James of Madison, took her first deer ever. She was guided by Preston Pittman.

NATCHEZ STATE PARK HUNTS

Known for having produced the state-record largemouth bass, Natchez State Park may now become famous for hosting deer hunts: A number of deer hunts were allowed by special permit last season. Two youth hunts, a one-day handicapped gun hunt, as well as archery and primitive weapons hunts all took place. In total, fifteen hunts were held.

For purposes of these hunts, legal deer were defined as bucks with 4 or more antler points and an inside spread of 12 inches or more. But there was even a minimum size for antlerless whitetails, which were required to have attained at least 65 pounds live weight to be harvested. (The average live weight of an adult doe in the park, according to the MDWFP, was 98 pounds.)

Permit applications for the 2007-08 season can be made online at www.mdwfp.com. Applications must be submitted by Sept. 15, 2007; only one application per hunter will be accepted.

NEW WMA USER PERMITS

These days it is not unusual for all levels of government to assess user fees for all types of activities that used to be thought of as "free." Of course, anyone who paid income or sales taxes in America already supported those public programs, so they were never free. Even so, appropriations provided to a host of public agencies simply have not kept pace with the expenses incurred in maintaining properties -- such as wildlife management areas.

Thus, the MDWFP has instituted a fee-based WMA User Permit. This is basically to raise more operational funds to keep wildlife management areas open to the public, and maintained and staffed with appropriate personnel.

"Just before the hunting season I drove up to Mahannah WMA from my home in Vicksburg to buy three user permits for me and my two boys," says longtime Warren County resident Jim Harper. "The office personnel were very helpful and friendly. This is a great area with lots of varied opportunity for a family of hunters, so I have no problem kicking in a little extra to use this WMA."

The User Permit is required for hunting, fishing, and trapping activities at any state operated WMA, of which there are currently 46 statewide. The resident annual permit costs a $15; for non-residents it's $30. An individual non-hunting one-day permit is $5. Family permits as well as camping permits are also available.

Check the MDWFP Web site at www.mdwfp.com for complete details.

NEW PRIMITIVE-WEAPONS RULE

What started out with a measure of confusion has turned into one a boon for Mississippi whitetail hunters. At the last minute before the 2005 deer season, the rules governing primitive weapons were amended. Now that we've had a full season to look at the result, the program looks good.

The new rules allowed the use of certain kinds of breech-loading single-shot smokeless-powder metallic-cartridge rifles during primitive weapons seasons. These rifles must be at least .38 caliber and of a type made prior to 1900.

Specifically, the intent was to allow deer hunters more opportunity during the four-week primitive weapon season in Zone One, and the nearly six weeks in Zone Two.

"Every deer hunter I talked to likes this new rule," said Jason Pope of Clinton.

"So far I've sold over 650 of these rifles," added Flora gun dealer Don Cresswell. "It would appear the concept is pretty darn popular."

SUMMING UP

Overall, the 2006-07 deer season was a good one: some great bucks taken, freezers well stocked with venison. Mississippi hosted some great outdoor events, and the new rules were taken in stride.

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