It might be the dire-straits heat of July, but now is a great time to sit back in the air conditioning at home thinking, dreaming and planning upcoming fall hunting trips.

Sure, a lot of Mississippi big-game hunters dream about a bucket-list hunt out West or maybe to a whitetail hotspot in Kansas, Illinois, etc.

But fall hunting trips don’t have to be extravagant, long-distant or expensive adventures to the mountains, wheat flatlands or corn fields up north. There are excellent fall hunting trips to make right here at home in the Magnolia State.


Mississippi’s public lands ops

I tend to reiterate this message time and time again, but Mississippi is pretty darn hard to beat for public-lands access for hunting. And it is not all for deer hunting, either.

There are right at 2 million acres of public lands in our state open for hunting. That offers a lot of options to consider for planning different kinds of hunts this fall.

These public lands include 52 state-owned wildlife management areas, several of which are within easy driving distance of virtually any spot in the state. So access should never be a complaint here.

Most of the WMAs are intensely managed for wildlife and, as records are beginning to show, if you pick carefully even trophy class whitetails can be hunted on some of these lands. You just have to do your homework.

There also are seven national forest properties scattered around the state landscape. On top of these prime lands are additional acreages under the control of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Most of these open hunting areas are in the vicinity of one of the big reservoirs positioned around the state, especially up and down Interstate 55.

Additional information on these open hunting lands can be found online at www.mdwfp.com. You can find WMA brochures, maps, seasons, hunting rules and regulations specific to each area, along with a host of other information to plan fall hunting trips in Mississippi.

You can also buy your annual hunting licenses online, too, making the process easy and painless.


Hunting options

“I take a number of out-of-state hunting trips every year, especially for turkey hunting, going after different species and other regional experiences, but I also plan for several in-state trips,” said Mike Flaunt, a hunting outfitter in Webb in the heart of the Delta. “There are excellent hunting opportunities all over up here in the Delta where I live. I go turkey hunting nearly every year around the Malmaison Wildlife Management Area in western Grenada County. There will be other turkey hunters around some days, but during the week you can nearly have the place to yourself.

“A lot of hunters also don’t realize how great the duck hunting can be on public lands in the Delta. Malmaison has flooded areas that really can pull in the greenheads and other ducks. O’Keefe WMA is also another super place for waterfowl hunting farther north up in Quitman County.” 

Truth is the wildlife management areas also have small-game hunting for squirrels and rabbits, and, of course, there is deer hunting.

Just do a little research on the state wildlife web site to find the best public lands to hunt and for what game species. 

“Both of my boys will put in for the special deer and duck hunting permits for the Mahannah Wildlife Management Area north of Vicksburg in Issaquena County,” Vicksburg’s Jim Harper said. “During the summer is the perfect time to tune into the dates and specifics for making applications for these hunts.

“If you wait too late, then you miss out on some excellent hunting.”

Jim is right on the timing of these special WMA hunting permits. Some of them might be for black powder or primitive weapons for deer hunting, but the chances of connecting on decent bucks are very good at Mahannah WMA. This would make a great in-state fall hunting trip. 

“I live south of Hattiesburg in the Brooklyn area, just north of the big Desoto National Forest and the Black Creek waterway,” Forrest County’s Cecil Burt said. “There is an excellent walking trail along the Black Creek in this dense national forest of towering pines and hardwood lined creeks that is just a super place for squirrel hunting. 

“The tactic is to slip into the trail just at (first) light so you can catch greys and fox squirrels feeding on the ground. Using a modified-choked shotgun or a scoped .22 rimfire rifle, with any luck at all and good shooting you can fill your bag limit by mid-morning. On a clear, cool fall morning there is no better small-game hunting trip anywhere in the country.” 

So, Mississippi hunters, you don’t have to pack your bags for a long drive out-of-state for a quality hunting experience. There are endless hunting trips available right here at home.

And right now — in the heat of the summer — is the time to start planning.