’Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the state, deer hunters were stirring and making a change...

With the switching from the still season to dog season, the final regular gun season opens on Christmas Eve. It will run through Jan. 22, and for many hunters the next two weeks will be huge.

“The peak of our rut, when the bucks start chasing does, always happens a day or two either side of New Years Day,” said Keith Partridge of Terry. He has hunted the Southwest area of Mississippi around Port Gibson in Claiborne County for over three decades.

“It’s always been that you could put on your pot of black-eyed peas on New Years Day morning, get it to a simmer, and then to the stand and wait for a doe to bring a buck to you,” he said, laughing. “Of course, they don’t always do what you plan on, but if it’s going to happen, you need to be there and be ready.”

While the peak kicked in already in areas of North Mississippi, the pre-rut has been productive in most of Central and Southwest Mississippi. Combined, there’s been an increase in activity reported by taxidermists statewide over the past 10 days.

“No doubt about it,” said Jimmy McGuire of McGuire’s Taxidermy in Clinton. “It really took off for us last Saturday (Dec. 20). We started getting more trophies in the shop last weekend and it hasn’t stopped. I hope it’s a sign that the peak of the rut will lead to a lot more trophies.”

While the Dec. 24-Jan. 22 gun season with dogs is the last true “gun season,” hunters who hunt private lands will be able to continue using their firearm of choice during the late primitive weapon season. 

In the Hill and Delta Zones, that is Jan. 23-Jan. 31. 

In the Southeast Zone, it’s Jan. 23-Feb. 15, but it’s legal bucks only in February for hunters aged 16 and over. Youth hunters, aged 15 and under, will be allowed to take antlerless deer and bucks of any description through Feb. 15.

Lake Mary gets crappie

One of the state’s biggest and most popular oxbow lakes, 2,200-acre Lake Mary in Wilkinson County, received a recent stocking of 45,000 white crappie from the North Mississippi Fish Hatchery.

“Lake Mary is one of the largest oxbow lakes in Southwest Mississippi and has long been a popular destination for crappie anglers,” said fisheries biologist Jerry Brown of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “In addition to this stocking, the recent reconstruction of the Sam Field Spillway, that helps maintain water levels at low river stages, will be beneficial to anglers fishing at Lake Mary. “

Hattiesburg lake joins program

State fisheries officials and the City of Hattiesburg have announced that the Duncan Lake has joned the MDWFP’s Community Fishing Assistance Program.

Duncan Lake is a 16-acre body of water located on James Street in Hattiesburg.

The goal of the MDWFP Community Fishing Assistance Program is to enhance the management and development of lakes and ponds in urban settings so that local residents, especially youth, can experience the joys of fishing close to home.  The agency provides management advice regarding fish harvest regulations, aquatic plant control and fish for stocking free of charge to the cooperators.  

According to the city, Duncan Lake is open daily from sunrise to sunset. All pets must be kept on a leash. Only bank fishing is allowed and anglers can harvest up to 10 bream, five catfish, and five largemouth bass per day.

For additional information, call the Hattiesburg Parks and Recreation Department at (601) 545-4667 or the MDWFP Fisheries Bureau at (601) 432-2200.