The White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) is the most popular game species in Misissippi. Nationally, the white-tailed deer population likely exceeds 30 million. In Mississippi, the deer herd is estimated at 1.75 million animals, which is higher on a deer-per-unit-area basis (density) than any other state, and only Texas has a greater number of deer.
Our deer herds were nearly extirpated by the early 1900's when lack of game laws, coupled with market-hunting and deforestation, took their toll. Deer were restricted to a few thousand animals located in remote parts of the state. This situation was addressed with formation of the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission in 1932, and a deer stocking program was initiated that continued through the 1960s in certain locales. Bag limits, season lengths, and other important conservation measures were implemented to help rebuild the herd. Deer populations increased exponentially during the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Deer production likely peaked during the early 1980s, and production, health, and habitat quality have since declined. Populations have leveled or declined slightly in certain parts of the state. In others areas, the herd is at or above carrying capacity.
According to hunter mail survey data from Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP), resident deer hunter numbers peaked in the late 1980s at about 200,000 and have declined since that time to about 160,000 for the 1998-99 year. Deer harvest by residents and nonresidents has followed a similar trend and totaled about 317,000 animals in 1998-99, based on hunter mail survey data.
Mississippi has one of the best deer management programs in the country. A long-standing relationship between Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) and the Mississippi State University Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has supported cutting-edge deer research for several decades. This research has led to important statewide programs, such as the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), whereby deer hunters and clubs collect harvest data that guide management to achieve club goals (about 2 million acres and 900 cooperators in 1998-99). MDWFP and other biologists coordinate and work with DMAP clubs. Herd health checks, habitat management on state Wildlife Management Areas, public hunting opportunities, hunter survey work, landowner site visits, public hearings and other methods are used to address the needs of both the deer herd and the publics in Mississippi.
Annually, Mississippi provides over 120 days of deer hunting. Deer season normally begins with archery season around the first of October. Hunters may use archery equipment during the gun seasons. During the last part of January, there is usually an additional archery-only season. Gun season (with dogs) normally opens the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The primitive weapon season is normally the first 2 weeks of December and is either sex. Gun (still, no dogs) season usually opens for about 2 weeks before Christmas and is followed by another gun season with dogs, which continues through mid-January. The buck limit is one per day, not to exceed three per license year, and only buck deer with antlers of four points or greater can be taken. The antlerless limit is one per day not to exceed three per license year, except two additional antlerless deer per license year may be taken with a bow and arrow. Antlerless deer can be taken during the archery splits, the primitive weapon split, and as designated by public notice. Check the season regulations book each year for current seasons, regulations, and bag limits.
Many hunters and landowners plant wildlife food plots these days, but this practice has become common only during the last 30 to 40 years in the Southeast.
Deer hunters know all too well the power of a deer’s sense of smell, or more technically speaking, its olfactory system. A change of wind direction can give deer just a whiff of human scent and send them running and send a hunter back to the truck empty handed.
Chronic wasting disease is the hot topic in Mississippi’s deer-hunting circles, and for good reason. MSU Extension experts encourage deer hunters to participate in the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks program for sampling deer to get an idea of where the disease has spread. (Photo by Michaela Parker/Cindy Callahan)
Hunters play a large role in helping to manage Mississippi’s deer population. Hunters not only help control deer numbers but also provide statewide harvest data that gives biologists insight into deer numbers, health and conditioning.
As we enter the first deer hunting season since the confirmation of chronic wasting disease -- or CWD -- in the state, we need assistance from Mississippi deer hunters more than ever.
- Record deer observations and harvest data to share with hunting partners.
- Manage stand location – identifies occupied stands.
- View summary reports of deer seen and harvested by stand, hunter, and entire property.
- Use password-protection to insure that no un-authorized people see your data.