House Bill 1282 passed out of the House wildlife committee on Thursday (Jan. 21), and is awaiting full consideration of the House, which has until Feb. 11 to act on bill or will die on the calendar.
"The agency does support this bill, both biologically and philosophically," said Chad Dacus, the MDWFP deer program coordinator. "Section 49-7-31, the season-setting statute of the Mississippi Code, was written at a time when we were in more of a protection mode than what they are in today."
Deer are now plentiful, he said, opening the door - and the need - for more hunting opportunity.
The bill includes several changes to the current deer season structure, some of which would be considered radical. Among them:
• Primitive weapon season would open statewide on Nov. 1 and close on the Friday preceding Thanksgiving.
• The Dec. 2-15 primitive weapon season, as well as the 10-day to two-week primitive weapon season, would cease to exist.
• Gun season without dogs, a.k.a. the still season, would increase significantly, assuming both of the two vacated primitive weapon periods. Instead of one eight-day still season from Dec 16-23, the statewide season would be Dec. 2-Dec. 23 and pick up again after the gun/with dog season in mid January and run through Jan. 31.
H.B. 1282 would add significant days of hunting for the biggest user group - gun hunters - allowing them to hunt from the Saturday before Thanksgiving until Jan. 31.
Rep. Blaine "Bo" Eaton (D-Taylorsville), committee chairman, wrote the bill and got it out of his committee quickly. It has stirred controversy in the hunting community, mainly because it moves the primitive weapon season into a November time frame that has been exclusive to hunting with bow and arrow.
As expected, bowhunters, and specifically the Mississippi Bowhunters Association, are in opposition. If this bill passes, bowhunters will lose about three weeks of the exclusive archery-only season, which now opens Oct. 1 and ends on the Friday prior to Thanksgiving.
"We are against this bill because we are against losing those first few weeks in November," said MBA legislative liaison Max Thomas. "By moving primitive-weapon season to Nov. 1, with the modern firearms they now allow, you are essentially ending archery season on Oct. 31.
"I know people are going to say that we can use our bows from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31 (they are legal during any open season), it is not the same when you introduce more disturbance to deer habitat."
The bill still faces plenty of legislative hurdles.
It must gain full House approval by Feb. 11 and then would go to the Senate, which has always been more conservative in its approach to deer-related bills.
Under H.B. 1282, future deer seasons would be:
• Archery: Oct. 1-Oct. 31.
•Primitive weapon, crossbow and archery: Nov. 1-Friday before Thanksgiving.
• Gun, with dog: Saturday before Thanksgiving to Dec. 1.
• Gun, without dog: Dec. 2-Dec. 23.
• Gun, with dog: Dec. 24-Through the date that a total of 39 days of dog hunting are allowed.
• Gun, without dog: From the day after the end of gun with dog seasons through -an. 31.
To track this bill and other legislation online, visit http://billstatus.ls.state.ms.us