Imagine having the opportunity to hunt in a bottomland hardwood area in Mississippi, where no hunting has been allowed for more than 50 years. That’s about eight generations of deer that know no hunting pressure.

Impossible, you say?

For 26 hunters this fall and winter, that chance will become reality when Barnett Reservoir opens about 400 acres below the main dam to deer hunting for the first time since the dam’s construction.

It will be archery only, with hunters selected by an application and draw process.

The special-permit hunt will be held over 13 weekends, noon Thursday until noon Sunday, beginning Oct. 31 and ending Jan. 26.

The area below the dam will be divided into two zones, with the Pearl River below the spillway serving as the dividing line. Only one permit will be issued for each zone each weekend, giving the hunters about 200 acres each.

In addition, about 400 acres of prime hunting area on the north shore of Pelahatchie Bay — known as Sections M and N — will also have a special-permit hunt for archery only during the same period with the same schedule. That area, which has had limited hunting pressure in the past and has been closed to hunting for 20 years, will be divided into three equal zones, and only one permit will be issued for each zone each weekend.

Permits will be $300 per hunt below the dam and $200 in Pelahatchie Bay. Each permitted hunter will be allowed to bring one guest, but only one hunter will be allowed to carry a bow at any one time.

Each permit will allow the harvest of one buck, with either a minimum of a 15-inch inside antler spread or an 18-inch-long main beam, and one doe.

“By limiting the number of hunters to two below the dam and to three in Pelahatchie Bay, we are providing a quality hunting experiences for those who participate,” said John Sigman, general manager of the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District, the state agency that oversees the Barnett Reservoir project. “Another goal is to maintain a quality buck-management program in both areas.”

The third goal is safety. Hunters selected through the draw process will be required to wear a fall restraint harness system approved by the Treestand Manufacturers Association, and to take and satisfactorily complete an online safety test provided by the TMA.

There is no cost to apply for the drawing, which is limited to Mississippi residents aged 21 and older who have a Mississippi hunting license or are exempt from such.

The application process begins Sept. 10, and will end at midnight Sept. 24. Applications will be available online at www. TheRez.ms, and applicants can either submit the application online or download it and mail to PRVWSD Special Permit Draws, P.O. Box 2180, Ridgeland, MS 39158.

Applications will also be available at the Reservoir’s Main Office on Madison Landing Circle in Ridgeland.

The random electronic drawing will be held on or about Sept. 27. Selected hunters will be notified by email and will have one week from that date to confirm their intent to hunt, or they will be replaced through a drawing from the original pool of applicants.

All permits must be purchased by Oct. 10; those permits not purchased by that deadline will be offered through another drawing from the pool.

All rules, regulation, application/draw requirements and maps of the Special Permit Draw Hunt areas are available at www.TheRez.ms.

The Web site also includes information on hunting on more than 10,400 acres of PRVWSD property, which is open to the public without special permit.

“A lot of people have told us they didn’t even know we had land open to hunting, other than the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area,” Sigman said. “They are surprised to learn that we have thousands of prime hunting habitat within our 50,000-acre project. 

“We do, and we have updated our regulations to make them more hunter-friendly to the public. Check them out, and see if it’s a fit for you. It’s not all easy hunting, but for the hunters who treasure solitude, it can certainly be found at Barnett Reservoir.”