A bill that will provide as much as six new weeks of squirrel hunting opportunity has passed both sides of the Mississippi Legislature and is headed to Gov. Phil Bryant’s desk.

Senate Bill 2369 gained House approval Tuesday by a 119-2 vote. It had passed the Senate 51-0 on Feb. 5. If the Governor signs the bill into law, Mississippi squirrel hunters will benefit by having either two, four or six weeks opened to hunting, depending on their area of residence.

The bill provides a unified opening day of the regular fall-winter squirrel season for areas, ending the staggered starts that saw the Northern zone of the state opening two weeks before the Central;/Southwest and four weeks before the Southern zone. The new statewide season would begin Oct. 1 and end Feb. 28, equivalent to the previous northern season.

All zones would also have a new spring season that can open on May 15 and must end no later than June 1.

“Hallelujah,” said Henry Watkins of Jackson. “Now if Mr. Bryant will sign it, I will be happy. And if you think I’m happy, let me tell you when my brother gets home from working offshore and hears about it, you will probably hear him holler in Hattiesburg all the way up here in Jackson.

“This means he gets to hunt all October at his place down there, and not have to come all the way up here. And as far as the May season goes, we’ll be among that group out there working with our dogs. This is a blessed day for all us Watkins boys and I should think all squirrel hunters.”

The bill will not create a 2014 May season, since if signed it does not take effect until July 1, 2014.

Also on its way to the Governor is S.B. 2143 that would extend trapping season on furbearing animals and the hunting season on raccoon, bobcat and opossum through March 15 every year. Those seasons currently end on Feb. 28.

MDWFP given deer authority

The Governor has already signed a bill that gives the Commission of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks plenary authority to set bag limits on white-tailed deer, a power previously in the hands of the legislature.

Plenary is defined by Webster as “absolute.”

House Bill 719 states: “The commission shall have plenary authority to set the bag limits for white-tailed deer, and promulgate any regulations necessary to facilitate the exercise of that authority, consistent with best management practices, scientific data and subject to all existing applicable laws, rules and regulations...”