HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The 2013-14 deer hunting season in Mississippi is set to open next week and state wildlife officials are expecting a banner year.
The archery season in the Delta and Hill zones, which includes the central and northern part of the state, opens Oct. 1 for legal bucks and antlerless deer. Archery season in the Southeast Zone, which includes Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties, opens Oct. 15 and closes Nov. 22 for legal bucks antlerless deer.
''Our deer herd is healthy,'' said Lann Wilf, the deer program leader for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. ''I think we will see some good deer [harvested] because more and more hunters are working hard to manage the herd across the state.''
Before the 2010-11 deer season began, the deer herd in Mississippi was estimated at 1.5 million with the highest populations in Lafayette and Panola counties based on higher protein vegetation and rich soil conditions. The smallest population – and the smallest overall size of the deer – was Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties due to sandy soil.
Entering the 2013-14 season, the herd is now estimated at 1.7 million with Lafayette and Panola counties still having the largest number and the Coastal counties with the smaller deer.
''We might even be closer to 1.75 million deer in the state,'' Wilf said. ''Like I said, our herd is healthy but it could be better because we need to harvest 30 percent each year. Two or three years ago, we needed to harvest 500,000 deer based on 1.5 million [total number] to keep the herd biologically level. But we were taking more like 250,000 each year.''
A legal buck in the Hill and Southeast zones features a 10-inch inside spread or a 13-inch main beam. In comparison, a legal buck in the Delta Zone includes a 12-inch inside spread or 13-inch main beam.
The bag limit in all three zones is one legal buck per day not to exceed three per license year.
Other dates in the Southeast Zone are: youth gun (Nov. 23-Dec. 1); primitive weapon (Dec.2-15)' gun without dogs (Dec. 16-23)' gun with dogs (Dec.24-Jan. 22); primitive weapon (Jan. 23-31 and Feb. 1-15). The Feb. 1-15 season is for legal bucks only.
The Southeast Zone includes private and public lands south of U.S. 84 and east of Mississippi Highway 35.