Deer Season

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 21, 2008

Laken Morrow, 9, bagged this 11-point buck Saturday, his third deer of the weekend, November 15 during Mississippi’s youth deer hunt. He was hunting with his dad, Tim Morrow, west of Batesville. Look in Friday’s issue of The Panolian for a story about the opening day of gun season, and also about how Laken harvested that buck.

Mississippi deer hunters have 1.75 million reasons to dream

By Billy Davis

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Hundreds of Panola County deer hunters will roll out of bed Saturday morning, awake but still dreaming.

With coffee cup in hand, they’ll be dreaming about bagging The Big One, the Gray Ghost, the Monster Buck, or even the Drop Tine Buck. 

Saturday kicks off the first day of gun season, which is traditionally the busiest hunting day in the state.

The 2008-2009 deer season officially began October 1 in Mississippi with a generous 8 ½-week archery season. The archery season ends today.

Mississippi’s first gun season runs for two weeks, which includes Thanksgiving Day weekend, until December 1, followed by three weeks of primitive weapon hunting.

The second gun season begins December 20, the last weekend before Christmas Day, then continues through January 21.

When hunters stumble out the door Saturday, Paul Franklin and wife Pam will be luring them with breakfast. At Franklin’s Store, on Highway 315 South, he plans to start with 50 biscuits and enough sausage, bacon, bologna, and smoked sausage to feed an army.

“We’ll also be selling a lot of them an orange vest, too, because they forget to bring it,” Franklin said.

The number of deer hunters visiting Franklin’s Store typically drops after opening weekend. But the storeowner said serious hunters maintain their interest and aren’t deterred by dropping temperatures.

 “When the weather is cold, and the wind is down, we see a lot of hunters,” he said.

Adult hunters on Saturday will be trailing the good fortunes of Laken Morrow. The 8-year-old bagged an 11-point buck during last weekend’s statewide youth hunt.

“We were shaking. We were scared to death,” said dad Tim Morrow, describing when the buck walked into a food plot with two more bucks.

The father and son waited for 10 minutes (an eternity in deer hunter time) while an oak tree separated deer from hunter. Laken dropped the buck at 90 yards with a .243 rifle. The deer weighed in at 175 pounds.

Mississippi boasts a deer population estimated at 1.75 million, “but it’s probably bigger than that,” said William McKinley.

 He is one of five deer program biologists employed by the Miss. Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

McKinley’s territory in the state includes northwest Mississippi and Panola County, where he said deer herd estimates show a “rapidly expanding deer population.”

To maintain healthy numbers, deer numbers must be thinned by harvesting more does, the biologist warned. Mississippi’s deer herd averages three does for every buck.

“Some people don’t have a problem sitting on a deer stand and seeing a hundred deer,” McKinley said. “But that’s not good. That’s a boom that will go bust if it’s allowed to continue.”

 “If you’re asking for a rule of thumb, a hunter should harvest two does per buck,” he said.

Mississippi’s deer season showed promise during archery season, McKinley reported.  Deer hunting clubs are reporting more deer sightings, and have harvested more deer, than last year.

Similar to Paul Franklin’s weather observation, McKinley said clear weather and cold mornings have helped keep the deer moving.

“Deer observations are up three times over last year,” he said. The increased sightings are helped by an average acorn crop that is driving more deer into food plots quicker than last season.

On the topic of food plots, McKinley shared one last bit of advice: hunters should stop planting rye grass, which is cheap to plant but offers zero nutritional value.

“Rye grass is nothing but a noxious weed. Plant oats,” he said. “Oats is the number one choice for deer. It’s their favorite meal.”