Two legislative matters that could impact the future of hunting in Mississippi have easily beaten Tuesday’s first major deadline of the 2014 lawmaking process.

Wildlife committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives passed versions of a bill that would create a spring squirrel-hunting season that would begin in mid May and end no later than June 1. Both would allow a 4-squirrel daily limit.

The Senate version goes a little further, and consolidates fall and winter hunting into one statewide season, instead of the zoned staggered starts currently in use. Now, hunters in North Mississippi start around Oct. 1 while South Mississippi hunters start four weeks later. All seasons end Feb. 28, creating the discrepancy in opportunity. If passed, the Senate bill would basically create a season that would run from about Oct. 1 to Feb. 28.

“I like them both,” said Harvey Jackson of Hattiesburg, an avid squirrel hunter whose favorite pastime is hunting bushy tails with his dog Billy. “There is no reason why our season in South Mississippi is a month (four weeks actually) shorter than North Mississippi and two weeks shorter than Central Mississippi.

“Give us the full season, and, if we don’t like the botflies then we can simply choose not to hunt. They don’t bother me.”

Botfly larvae, a parasite that infests small furbearing animals, are slower to leave squirrels in the southern areas of the state. Biologists say they do enter the meaty tissue of the squirrel, staying just under the skin.

As for the May season, Jackson was happy to hear it was being reconsidered after failing to pass a few years ago.

“Why am I for it?” he said, rhetorically answering the inquiry. “It’s really simple, I’d get two more weeks to hunt with Billy and that’s two more weeks of what I love to do. I know it will be hot in May and I don’t think a lot of people will hunt, but the true squirrel dog hunters will. So give us the chance.”

Both Committees have also passed versions of bills that would give the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks plenary authority to set deer bag limits without having to get legislative approval.

The next hurdle for both bills is surviving votes before the full House or full Senate. That deadline is Feb. 13.

Quail, turkey workshops planned

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) and Mississippi State University will host a pair of two-day workshop management practices for bobwhite quail and wild turkeys and to educate landowners about prescribed fire. 

These workshops, one each in North and South Mississippi, will be held on consecutive days (Game Bird Workshop on day 1 and Prescribed Fire Workshop on day 2). 

The North Mississippi class will be Feb. 21-22 at the Panola County Extension Building and Charles Ray Nix Wildlife Management Area.

The South Mississippi workshop will be held Feb. 28-March 1 at Percy Quin State Park. 

Topics to be covered during the game bird workshops include turkey and quail biology, habitat management and incorporating wildlife management into profitable forestry and agricultural practices. Landowners will also learn about the impacts of predation on game bird populations as well as the answers to commonly asked questions about pen-raised quail, supplemental feeding and food plots. 

Topics covered during the prescribed burning workshops include safe and effective use of prescribed fire, fire ecology and wildlife habitat, and legal issues related to prescribed burning in Mississippi. Weather permitting, participants will be given the chance to assist in a prescribed burn demonstration. 

Registration cost is $30 for game bird workshops (Day 1) and $10 for prescribed burning workshops (Day 2). Registration cost for each workshop includes printed materials and lunch. Participants may choose to attend either or both workshops. Continuing education credits will be available for registered foresters. 

Pre-registration is required. To pre-register or for more information, please visit www.cfr.msstate.edu/workshops/gamebird or call Bronson Strickland at (662) 325-8141.