SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - The most-anticipated weekend of the year for Mississippi deer hunters has arrived.
The first gun season with dogs begins Saturday on a statewide level and will remain open through Dec. 1. The first gun season with no dogs will be open from Dec. 16-23 and the final season with dogs is Dec. 24-Jan. 21.
For other deer dates, including the extended season in South Mississippi in February, go to www.mdwfp.com.
"It's that time even though the weather is going to be lousy. We are looking at 70-degrees this weekend on a statewide basis and that's too hot," Lann Wilff, Deer Coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks in Jackson said. "Maybe by the middle of next week, we will get some good hunting weather and get rid of the 70-degree madness.
"But that's only part of the problem. Our hunters need to harvest more deer when the weather gets right."
The Mississippi deer herd is estimated between 1.75 and two-million across the 82 counties which has increased from 1.25 to 1.5 million a few years ago.
In 2013-24, Mississippi had 149,046 licensed hunters that harvested 263,705 deer. That breaks down to 1.8 deer – doe and bucks mixed – per hunter.
Mississippi hunters are allowed to harvest five antlerless deer and three legal bucks.
"We are not even close to harvesting the limit," Wilff said. "We have to get more people in the woods and shooting more deer. I will stick with the numbers of 1.75 to two-million, but I think we are greater (in total numbers). To keep a deer herd stable, you need to harvest 30 percent of the herd annually. With our numbers, we need to be taking between 600,000 and 650,000. And we're not taking half that number.
"I am not saying we have a deer problem, but we need hunters to be more aggressive especially in the antlerless structure."
Wilff said he saw 50 deer Thursday night in a 35-mile stretch along the Natchez Trace near Jackson. He said road side sightings are becoming more common throughout the state as the population continues to grow.
That, Wilff said, could lead to problems.
"We need to try and double our deer harvest every year, but the number of hunters are staying the same. We did gain 2.800 hunters last year, but only harvested 851 more (deer) than the year before.
"What we are going to see is more human and deer conflicts. If we don't harvest more deer, deer will become a nuisance and a challenge. That would be a problem and that's why we need to harvest more deer."