As expected, the rising waters of the Mississippi River have exceeded flood stage on all four gauges that dictate closures to all hunting — including deer — except for waterfowl in many areas along the river.
An updated map posted online Monday by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks shows closures of all lands between the river and the main levee from the Tennessee line south to the southern border of Warren County below Vicksburg, plus other areas in Bolivar County.
The map was accompanied by a news release from MDWFP Executive Director Sam Polles that announced the closure of “all open seasons for hunting, including wild hogs, but not including waterfowl, along the Mississippi River ….”
The closures include:
• Zone 1 — DeSoto, Tunica and Coahoma counties to include lands that lie south of the Tennessee State line, west of Highway 61 and north of Highway 49 when the Mississippi River level reaches 34 feet on the Memphis, Tenn., gauge. The closure remains into effect until the Mississippi River level falls to or below 32 feet on the Memphis gauge.
• Zone 2 — A) Coahoma, Bolivar and Washington counties to include lands south of Highway 49, west of Highway 61 to the intersection of Highway 61 and Highway 444, west of Highway 1 and north of Highway 82 when the Mississippi River level reaches 41 feet on the Helena, Ark., gauge. This region remains closed until the Mississippi River falls to or below 39 feet on the Helena gauge.
B) Bolivar County south of Highway 444, west of Snake Creek and Bogue Phalia Creek, and north of Highway 450 when the Mississippi River reaches 41 feet on the Helena, Ark., gauge. This closure will last until the Mississippi River falls to or below 39 feet on the Helena gauge.
• Zone 3 — Washington and Issaquena counties south of Highway 82, west of Highway 1 and North of Highway 14 when the Mississippi River level reaches 48 feet on the Greenville gauge. The closure remains in effect until the Mississippi River level falls to or below 46 feet on the Greenville gauge.
• Zone 4 — Issaquena, Sharkey and Warren counties south of Highway 14, west of Highway 61 and north of the Big Black River when the Mississippi River level reaches 43 feet on the Vicksburg gauge. The seasons will remain closed until the Mississippi River level falls to or below 41 feet on the Vicksburg gauge.
The Mississippi River is expected to crest at least 5 feet and as much as 7.5 feet above flood stage.
With the crests projected to occur between Jan. 8 in Memphis and Jan. 15 in Vicksburg, it is possible that some areas — especially on the south end near Vicksburg — will not reopen before the Jan. 31 end of the extended primitive weapon and archery season on deer.
The river-level forecast does not include any rain outside the immediate 48-hour period, so any rains that fall in the upper Midwest could increase the levels and delay the crest.
Dacus said other areas could be closed if the floodwaters back up in tributaries, creating stress and hardships on wildlife.
In addition, MDWFP conservation officers are helping patrol the mainline levee — which is closed to public use — from Vicksburg to Tunica.
“No sightseeing or joyriding will be allowed, which may cause deer and other wildlife to retreat back into dangerous floodwaters,” said Steve Adcock, chief of enforcement for the MDWFP. “Only landowners, leaseholders and emergency response personnel are allowed on the levee, and only for the purpose of evacuating people or property.
“Citations will be issued to anyone found to be in violation of this closure.”