Many Mississippians awoke Monday to their first true taste of fall weather, lows in the upper 40s with highs forecast for the mid 70s later that day.

“So, reckon how many people called in sick today, dialing from a tree stand in the woods somewhere,” joked avid archery hunter Craig Hunt of Leake County during his half-hour commute to his office in Ridgeland. “Today just felt like bow hunting.”

Seriously, one has to wonder just how many hunters did play hooky or were at least an hour or two late for work?

It is a situation that will only spread in the days to come.

Mississippi’s 2013-14 hunting season is expanding with almost every week that passes. 

Over the past weekend, for instance, dove season opened again in the South Zone and the youth squirrel season opened in the Central Zone.

Over the coming weekend, we can add:

* the regular squirrel season in the Central Zone (opens Saturday).

* the rabbit season statewide (opens Saturday).

* the dove season in the Northern Zone (opens Saturday), meaning doves will be legal statewide.

Then, next week, on Oct. 15th, the archery deer season in the Southeast Zone will open and the fall turkey season will begin in the 24 counties that allow it.

“If this weather continues to be this nice next weekend, then I think we will see a lot of rabbit and squirrel dogs hitting the woods on Saturday,” said rabbit hunter Gene Thomas of Brandon. “The problem we have with rabbit dogs in October is running them in the heat. Our hunts tend to be shorter when it’s in the 60s in the morning and 80s by noon. We’re lucky to get a couple of hours out of them, unless we’ve been running them in pens to get them in shape.

“But you give us a little bit of 40-ish type temperatures in the morning and we can run them twice as much and hunt until lunch, straight through.”

Deer hunters sure enjoyed the change, even if it didn’t equate to success right away.

“I didn’t get to pull the string, but I sure saw more deer moving on Sunday afternoon and again this morning,” said Billy Simpson of Madison. “I had one shooter buck, a good 10-point I’d seen on trail cams, pass just outside shooting range. He had two dropping white oak trees he could choose and he took the wrong one, at least for me. He was 60 yards away, 20 more than I felt comfortable shooting.

“The closer white oak had at least 10 does and their yearlings come through this morning, but because that big buck was under the other tree, I decided not to shoot. After he left, I had one more chance to shoot a doe but I had to be at work at 9 o’clock so I had to be out of the woods at 8. I couldn’t be sure I could trail a deer and recover it so I passed on a big doe at 30 yards, broadside at 7:45.”

Did he consider taking out his cell and making a call?

“You know I did,” Simpson said laughing as he dressed for work. “I thought about calling in and cancelling a meeting I had this morning and staying in the stand. But, it’s a long season and I’m gonna keep that card in my quiver for another day.”