Despite last Friday’s cold front-driven thunderstorms, mid-Mississippi continues to suffer from a months-long drought, and the impact on the deer population could be cruel.
But, then, it could be good for deer hunters, at least this year. Archery season opens in the region on Oct. 1, and reduced food sources will mean deer concentrated around those that remain.
Biologists say the continuing dry conditions are stressful for Mississippi’s high deer population between U.S. Highways 84 and 82.
“North and South, it hasn’t been that bad as far as the drought,” said Lann Wilf, the biologist who serves as the Deer Program Coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “It’s the Central Mississippi area between 82 and 84 that has been so dry. That’s where we could see some problems.”
The trouble is both immediate and long-term.
“The shortage of natural browse makes it difficult for does to produce milk for fawns, which could impact the fawn rate,” Wilf said. “I think if we are to see any negative impact in the drought regions we’d be looking at the 2017-18 or ’18-19 seasons before we see it.”
The short-term impact involves what drives most deer hunters — antler development that produces the trophy racks they seek.
“You could also see some impact in antler development, because it becomes more challenging,” Wilf said, adding that it shouldn’t be dramatic. “It could fall off a bit, but I don’t think it will be as much an impact on older, mature bucks, like maybe 3-year-olds and especially the 4s and 5s. Their bodies have already developed and I think those mature bucks are pretty much going to be what they are going to be.
“They could be a bit off, but it’s the younger bucks, the 2s that you will see struggling in antler production.”
Wilf’s prediction for the season, including the archery season: “This year will be pretty good, and next year, too. We had great fawn production in 2011 and 2012 and that’s what is carrying us.
Everything I’ve seen and studied this year indicates that the 2- and 3-year-old deer are the dominant classes in the population.”
Hill and Delta Zones: Oct. 1-Jan. 31.
Southeast Zone: Oct. 15-Feb. 15.