SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) - State officials say the 2014-2015 deer season was marginal at best. Deer hunting season in Mississippi ended on Saturday in the Hills and Delta Zone, but hunters in the Southeast Zone, which includes the coastal counties of Hancock, Harrison and Jackson, are allowed to harvest legal bucks only from Feb. 1 through Feb. 15 during the extended season.
Lann Wilff, of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries, and Parks in Jackson, said the extra two weeks gives hunters in South Mississippi a chance to hunt the rut.
The rut generally unfolds in late November and early December in the central and Delta part of the state due to solid vegetation associated with solid soil. In South Mississippi, the rut doesn't typically begin until after Jan. 31 due to a sandy soil, which can limit vegetation.
"The data that we have collected over the last several years shows that the rut starts down there (South Mississippi) after Jan. 31," Wilff said. "If I lived down there, I would go. Personally, I don't think the rutting activity is going to be excellent, but it's worth going. I think the prime rut activity in the Southeast Zone will be during the first week of February. Keep in mind that if you hunt one of our (state) wildlife management areas, you must use a primitive weapon during the (extended) season. If you hunt private land, you can use a rifle."
Hunters can only harvest a mature buck during the extended season and no doe harvests are permitted.
According to the Department of Wildlife, a legal buck features a 10 inch inside spread between the antlers or a 13 inch main beam.
In terms of the 2014-2015 season on a statewide level, Wilff said it was marginal at best.
Even for a state that has an estimated deer herd of 1.7 million and a doe-to-buck ratio of three-to-one.
"The ratio isn't bad, and that includes the Southeast Zone," Wilff said. "Hunting showed improvement around New Years, then deer movement plummeted after that. It has been marginal at best. The overall quality was good, and we had some fair deer harvested, but the overall deer movement hasn't been good the past three years. It seems that somewhere in February and March, deer will be everywhere. I think we've had a reduction due to habitat and hunting pressure. Some (hunters) will hunt the same stand day in and day out. Plus, I think there's too much (four wheel) riding, too. I really think wide spread feeding deer with corn and protein is killing deer movement. With the wide spread feeding, deer do not have to hustle to feed."