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Deer season heads into final days

By Staff
Jan. 11, 2002
As we approach the final days of gun season for deer, hunter success and satisfaction have been mixed. While we have seen some of the best bucks ever taken in Mississippi, many people from around the state are disturbed about the harvest. Hunters are reporting seeing fewer and fewer deer and are worried about a trend that they believe began in the last few years.
After a lifetime of hunting deer and seeing the population literally explode, I observed a liberal expansion of our bag limits on does a few years ago. While some areas of the state may be at the point of overpopulation, others clearly aren't.
At this point in the season the deer are usually on the move and become more visible to hunters. The cold weather forces most deer out of their sanctuaries in search of food. The magical rut also swings into gear in our area, making the old wary bucks more vulnerable to the remaining hunters.
Harvesting Does
While most agree that we need to keep our deer population in check, many are wondering out loud if we have gone too far in our liberal harvest regulations. In my younger years it was almost a "sin" to kill a doe. You just didn't do it! As a result, the deer population rose to an all-time peak.
Many clubs and landowners are on game management plans that prescribes the number of antlerless deer to harvest to achieve the desired population balance. If the tract of land is large enough, or the neighboring landowners are participants, then the plan can be successful. However, many clubs and landowners don't have enough land in one area to control the harvest.
In the past, young hunters could be kept occupied by the antlerless deer that would feed in the woods and food plots. Most of these same hunters would look forward to the 1 or 2 doe days usually allowed each year. This writer took advantage of the doe days and enjoyed the opportunity to harvest a doe. In many areas now however, it is hard for a youth to even see a deer. Many have personally expressed their discouragement about not seeing any deer, trip after trip.
Quantity or quality
While many people, especially youngsters, want to see a lot of deer, others want to harvest large bucks. Both may be possible in some locales, but most of us must make a choice. Most of the land in our area simply won't support large numbers of deer and grow quality racks as well.
Many of the older hunters don't care about taking smaller bucks. A lot of them grew up during the liberal buck harvest limits and killed young bucks year after year. It is quite understandable why those hunters grew tired of harvesting spikes or small rack bucks. Although most hunters are pleased with the quality bucks now being taken, they also want increased chances of success.
Nocturnal does?
Lately many people, including myself, have wondered what's happened to the does. While it is clear that we don't have as many now, it is also evident that there are some around. Then why would they not be visible to most hunters? Could it be that the does have become wise, just as the wary old bucks?
I have probably seen fewer does this year than in any of my years of deer hunting. I know that one area I hunt has all size deer tracks. However, they must be feeding at night because I have hunted there at all times of day and they are simply not showing up. Tracks don't lie! If you find them, then a deer has been there at some point.
While the quantity/quality debate is bound to continue, these last few days of gun season will give all hunters an equal chance to bag that trophy buck. But you can't get him if you're in the house. So head for the woods, you just might be glad you did!