Like it or hate it, the biggest change in decades involving deer hunting in Mississippi will start during the 2014-15 seasons proposed by the Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks.

The main Dec. 2-15 and late January primitive weapon seasons will no longer require “primitive weapons” on private lands. This legislative change was made in 2013 and becomes effective July 1, 2014. 

Muzzle-loaders and certain exposed-hammer centerfire rifles that meet primitive weapon criteria will still be required on all public lands during all primitive seasons, and on private lands during the early November doe-only primitive season that is held in both the Hill and Delta Zones. There is no November primitive weapon season in the Southeast Zone.

Reactions have varied. Traditionalists stand by their muzzle-loaders, and gun shops bemoan the loss of exposed-hammer rifle sales. But, most hunters welcome the opportunity to choose their weapon during a peak period of buck activity. 

“I hear some die-hard muzzle-loaders say that this will kill the tradition, once and for all, but I think they started down that road a long, long time ago and we’re just reaching the end of it,” said Jerry Pace of Brandon. “It’s been a slow progression over the past two decades, starting with the in-line muzzle-loaders. Then came aim points and then scopes. Of course, the big move was allowing those exposed-hammer centerfires, and letting kids use regular guns. Those two made it obvious that we would reach this point.

“I am still a muzzle-loader lover and I plan to save one of my bucks each year to take with my ol’ smoke pole. I have that choice and I like it, but I also like the idea of having my rifle during that peak December period when the bucks are in pre-rut.”

Ryan Thomas of Jackson is happy.

“I got two sons, one turning 16 this year and another turning 15, and this will save me a couple of thousand dollars, probably,” he said. “They have been able to hunt primitive seasons with their regular rifles, which they are outgrowing, but as they turn 16 they would have had to have a primitive weapon.

“So instead of having to get each one a primitive weapon, now I can get by just upgrading their calibers as they grow. Am I happy? You bet I am. I still have my muzzle-loader if anyone ever needs it.”

The new regulation includes:

During any open season on deer with primitive weapons after Nov. 30, a person may use any legal weapon of choice on private lands only, if the person is either: 1, the title owner of the land; 2, the lessee of the hunting rights on the land; 3, a member of a hunting club leasing the hunting rights on the land; or, 4, a guest of a person listed above. If the person is required to have a hunting license, the person must have a primitive weapon license, Sportsman's License or a Lifetime Sportsman's License.

No other major changes are included in the proposed deer seasons, zones and regulations for 2014-15. To view all proposed regulations, visit http://www.mdwfp.com/media/219748/40_miss_admin_code_pt_2_rule_2.2_deer_seasons_bag_limits_2014-2015_proposed.pdf.

A short version follows:

Zones with legal buck descriptions

Hill Zone: Areas north of I-20 and east of I-55, plus those areas south of I-20 that are east of U.S. Highway 61 (excluding areas listed in Southeast Zone below). Legal bucks are described as having either a minimum inside spread of 10 inches OR a minimum main beam length of 13 inches.

Delta Zone: Areas north of I-20 and west of I-55, plus those areas south of I-20 that are west of U.S. Highway 61. Legal bucks are described as having either a minimum inside spread of 12 inches OR a minimum main beam length of 15 inches.

Southeast Zone: Area south of U.S. Highway 84 that are east of Mississippi Highway 35. Legal bucks are described as having either a minimum inside spread of 10 inches OR a minimum main beam length of 13 inches.

Hill and Delta Zone seasons

Archery: Oct. 1-Nov. 21 (archery weapons legal during all open gun seasons). Either-sex deer on private and open public lands.

Youth, gun: Nov. 8-Jan. 31 (ages 15 and under). Either-sex deer on private and open public lands. Youth can take any bucks regardless of antler lengths up to their season limit of 3.

Early primitive weapon: Nov. 10-21, private lands and public lands where allowed. Antlerless deer only and primitive weapons required of hunters aged 16 and over.

Gun, with dogs: Nov. 22-Jan. 1. Either-sex on private land, legal bucks only on public land.

Primitive weapon season: Dec. 2-15. On private lands, hunters can use weapon of choice. On public lands, only those guns defined as primitive weapons are legal. Either-sex deer on private land and open public land.

Gun, without dogs (still season): Dec. 16-23. Either-sex deer on private and open public lands.

Gun, with dogs: Dec. 24-Jan.21. Either-sex deer on private land, legal bucks only on public land.

Archery, primitive weapon: Jan. 22-Jan. 31. Either-sex deer on private and open public lands. On private lands, hunters can use weapon of choice.

Southeast Zone seasons

Archery: Oct. 15-Nov. 21 (archery weapons legal during all open gun seasons). Either-sex deer on private and open public lands.

Youth, gun: Nov. 8-Jan. 31 (ages 15 and under). Either-sex deer on private and open public lands. Youth can take any bucks regardless of antler lengths up to their season limit of 3.

Gun, with dogs: Nov. 22-Jan. 1. Either-sex on private land, legal bucks only on public land.

Primitive weapon season: Dec. 2-15. On private lands, hunters can use weapon of choice. On public lands, only those guns defined as primitive weapons are legal. Either-sex deer on private land and open public land.

Gun, without dogs (still season): Dec. 16-23. Either-sex deer on private and open public lands.

Gun, with dogs: Dec. 24-Jan.21. Either-sex deer on private land, legal bucks only on public land.

Archery, primitive weapon: Jan. 22-Jan. 31. Either-sex deer on private and open public lands. On private lands, hunters can use weapon of choice.

Archery, primitive weapon: Feb. 1-15. Legal bucks only on private and open public land. Youth may take either-sex deer. 

Bag limit

Bucks: One legal buck, as defined in each zone, per day, not to exceed three per season. Youth hunters can take any bucks regardless of antler size up to their 3-buck limit.

Antlerless deer: One antlerless deer per day, not to exceed five per season. Antlerless deer are defined as any female deer and any male deer without hardened antler above the hairline. On U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U. S. Army Corps of Engineers, and U.S. Army managed lands are authorized to harvest antlerless deer on days designated by Federal Regulations. Contact local National Wildlife Refuge, Corps of Engineers, or U.S. Army for details. On U.S. Forest Service National Forests, the bag limit on antlerless deer is one per day, not to exceed three per license year.

DMAP Limits: Lands operated under the MDWFP’s Deer Management Assistance Program have variations to the limits. Any antlered buck deer may be taken by permit if it is necessary to manage deer on lands under the DMAP or on Wildlife Management Areas. Any antlered deer harvested under this permit must be identified with a tag immediately upon possession. 

Antlered buck deer taken by permit shall not be subject to the daily bag limit or the annual bag limit on antlered deer. Doe tags: The annual and daily bag limit on antlerless deer shall not apply to private lands under the DMAP or the Fee-based Antlerless Program (FMAP) as approved by the MDWFP. All harvested antlerless deer that exceed an individual hunter’s daily or annual bag limit must be tagged prior to moving with a DMAP or FMAP tag provided by the MDWFP.