Roles change for conservation officers 11/19/2013

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Roles change for conservation officers

By John Howell Sr.
If you are putting out corn now to attract deer, it’s illegal, Marion Pearson said.

Pearson spoke at a recent Batesville Rotary Club meeting, describing the changing role of Conservation Officers of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP).
Placing corn — or sweet potatoes or pumpkins, for that matter — on property during October and November to attract deer is illegal, Pearson said.

“Corn feeders are still a pretty prevalent problem here in Panola County,” Pearson said. “I walk probably 200 to 300 different pieces of property every year, checking on compliance with the baiting law.”

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Use of corn from March 1 to June 30 — turkey season — is also prohibited,  Pearson said.
And it is also illegal to pour corn onto the ground or to pile it up in feeders.

“Mold and mildew is one of the biggest items we’re concerned with,” the Conservation Officer said. “Bacteria causes (turkey) egg shells to be real thin.” The thin-shelled eggs prevent turkey reproduction. “If you just pour it out on the ground, you’re going to end up with molded corn on the ground.”

Pearson also discussed recent changes in hunting laws, including legalization of crossbows for hunting. Crossbows can now be used for hunting on private land without violating regulations, he said.

Another hunting regulation that will go into affect next July is the use of any legal hunting firearm on private land during primitive weapon season.

The catch, the Conservation Officer said, is that the hunter is still required to buy a primitive weapon hunting license regardless of the type of firearm (or crossbow) he or she uses during primitive weapon season.

“We can’t afford to lose that revenue,” Pearson said.

Technicalities of baiting restrictions aside, Conservation Officers perform a variety of other tasks from conducting hunter safety education classes that are prerequisite for hunting license purchases to teaching safe boating practices to recreational boat operators.

At the many popular fishing venues in Mississippi, officers check for compliance with fishing regulations, including at Sardis Dam with upwards of one million visitors annually, slot limit lengths of crappie.

There’s another lesser known job that Conservation Officers fill — they are organized into Special Response Teams, another name for a SWAT team.

It was MDWFP team in north Mississippi that tracked and found Adam Mayes during a 2012 manhunt in northeast Mississippi that began when Mayes killed a mother and her daughter and kidnapped two other daughters, Pearson said.

As the team closed in on Mayes in a wooded area near New Albany, he killed himself, allowing his two captives to be rescued.