Mississippi hunters continue to struggle with a hot — and extremely dry — September, not exactly the kind of start they hoped for the long season ahead.

“The problem has not been so much with the way it has affected the doves, but more the way it has affected me,” said Terry Johnson of Grenada, who admits to being more than a bit of a “wuss” when it comes to heat.

“You know, we had a pretty fair summer going until September and then it just got ridiculous in a hurry," he said. "I dealt with it the first weekend (Labor Day) for doves, but after that my want-to just didn’t. Then last weekend with the teal, I was happy to get the brief cool snap, but it didn’t have time to affect the ducks and push enough down. I scouted about four days and saw only two birds, and they were on somebody else’s property.”

Johnson said he did go dove hunting in the Delta last Saturday, when it was cooler, but the birds had scattered since the start of the season.

“I guess more farmers were cutting corn and beans and it opened up more food choices,” he said. “The birds that I was told were concentrated around what was left of our sunflowers had moved on off.”

Mississippi’s North Zone dove season continues through Sunday, and another cool down is expected over the weekend.

“Not only cooler but a whole lot wetter,” said Jim Gardner of Greenville, “and we need both. We don’t need a little rain; we need a lot of rain. My best teal holes could use about an inch or two of rain. If more teal come in on the cool front I’d still need more water to attract and hold them.”

Mississippi’s teal season will continue until Sept. 29.

Next up for hunters, at least in the northern third of the state, is the opening of the first small game season. The North Zone youth squirrel season, open for only those hunters aged 15 and under, starts on Saturday (Sept. 21). The regular squirrel season in the North Zone starts the following Saturday (Sept. 28).

Biologists think hunters should find plenty of bushy-tailed squirrels to play with, thanks to a nearly decade-long production of acorns.

“We haven’t had a mass mast failure in quite a while, far from it, so as far as squirrels go, we’re firing on all cylinders,” said David Godwin, the small game program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “Even if we have a down year this year, I don’t see it affecting us that much in future years.”

Added the MDWFP’s small game program leader Rick Hamrick: “I don’t see how we can predict anything but a good season.”

Basically, both biologists agreed, hunters who enjoyed good seasons in recent years should see no change.

Squirrel seasons in the Central and South Zones start in October.

Mississippi’s first deer season is just two weeks away, the Oct. 1 opening of the bow season in the Hill and Delta Zones. So far, it’s been the dry season and not the heat that has plagued archers.

“It’s been so dry we haven’t been able to till the ground, much less plant anything,” said Joe Watts of Canton. “We’ve done what we can, but that hasn’t been much besides bush-hogging. Until we get some rain, we’re not going to be able to break up the ground and it’s getting past time to get those early green patches in.

“As we get close to October, then we start worrying about the heat. Nobody wants to see it 90 degrees with sunrises in the upper 60s at the start of the season.”