In Mississippi, new deer regs, misinformation raise questions
JACKSON, Miss. — With so many new regulations concerning deer hunting in Mississippi, it’s not surprising that hunters can become confused.
Annual season bag limits for antlerless deer were reduced this season from five to three in the Delta, Northeast, East Central and Southwest zones. In the Southeast Zone, the bag limit for antlerless deer was reduced from one per day, not to exceed three per annual season, to one per day, not to exceed two per annual season.
That change led to a hunter reaching out to Facebook users with the question, “What is the cumulative limit on does if you hunt in Southeast and other zones?”
Russ Walsh, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks executive wildlife director answered that and other questions.
“The answer is three regardless of where you are in the state,” Walsh said. “He could kill two in the Southeast Zone and one in another zone or two in another zone and one in the Southeast, but the bottom line is the statewide limit is three.”
Another hunter asked on Facebook, “What happened to the no does on public land?”
The new bag limits have cut back on doe harvests across the board and limited the opportunity to harvest them on public land. However, doe harvests on public land were not eliminated in the proposed changes nor in the final adopted version of the regulations for the coming season.
“You can kill does on a national forest that’s a WMA (wildlife management area),” Walsh said. “It’s archery or youth gun.
“There are some WMAs where you can harvest does with a gun and some where you cannot. There are 28 WMAs that will allow antlerless harvest with a firearm, 22 that only allow it in archery and youth gun season, which is basically two weeks prior to gun season.”
The harvest of does on open public lands, which includes national forest land that is not managed as a WMA, has been suspended except during archery-only season and the special youth gun season. The bag limits are the same as the zone where the land is located.
A change in primitive weapon seasons regulations that took place several years ago also seems to have caused some lingering confusion. During primitive weapon seasons after November 30, hunters on private land are allowed to use modern weapons if they choose. That left a hunter a hunter asking on social media why he was required to purchase a primitive weapon license if he wasn’t using a primitive weapon.
“It’s really not for the weapon itself, it’s for the season,” Walsh said. “You need that license if you don’t have a Sportsman License.”
In other words, you are required to have a Sportsman License or a primitive weapon license to hunt during a primitive weapon season, regardless of what weapon you choose.
Two other questions hunters frequently ask stem from misinformation that’s been circulating as long as some of us can remember and the first concerns a minimum caliber bullet for deer.
“We do get frequent calls about what caliber you can use,” Walsh said. “During daytime hunting hours, there is no caliber restriction for deer.”
While hunters can use whichever caliber they want, Todd Sarotte of Van’s Sporting Goods in Brandon said he would consider the .223 Remington to be the minimum for an ethical harvest.
“Honestly, with the ammo out there, we’re seeing a lot of people shooting .223,” Sarotte said. “Personally, I’d use something bigger, but a lot of people are shooting .223 and having success as long as it’s an accurate shot.”
When using a .223 for deer, Sarotte recommended limiting the distance of the shot and using ammunition loaded with high-performance bullets such as Barnes TSX or Nosler Accubond.
Walsh said another misconception is that there is a minimum draw weight for bow hunters – there isn’t. But like ammunition, not every bow is suitable.
“A lot of it is going to depend on your arrow and draw length,” said Becky Clark, co-owner of B&B Archery in Pearl. “There are a lot of factors that come in.
“We recommend a minimum of 30 pounds for a close-in (20 yards or less) shot. Bows are so much more efficient these days that 30 pounds will get you a faster arrow than a 30-pound bow of years ago.”
Clark noted that while a 30-pound draw weight is sufficient, it needs to be used with a fixed-blade broadhead rather than a mechanical broadhead.
“If you use a mechanical broadhead, it just won’t open,” Clark said. “It just doesn’t have the kinetic energy to open it.”