According to Mark Twain, "Most people use statistics the way a drunk uses a lamp post, more for support than illumination."

However when the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks produces their annual Deer Program Report, the statistics are loaded with both support and illumination.

The annual report for 2010 has been released. This compilation of deer data, related statistics and other pertinent information is the most current available. Data collection and analysis is always a year behind the last deer hunting season.


WMA data

Mississippi has 45 wildlife management areas open for public deer hunting. These sites scattered about the state vary greatly in size and in habitat conditions conducive to deer populations. Most of these WMAs are prime deer hunting areas, but the differences in WMAs need to be recognized.

For the 2010 report, the WMA data collected indicates an overall decrease in harvest by 285 deer compared with the previous season. As reported, some of this decline may be due to hunters having to relearn the new minimum-antler criteria. It also says average success rates decreased slightly tallying all WMAs. Reasoning for this was a decrease in deer movements because of good mast crops, behavioral changes and unkind weather conditions.

Man-days reported increased by some 1,891 days. A man-day is defined as one hunter hunting any part of one day. While man-days took a dip after Hurricane Katrina, they appear to have recovered and are now holding steady. That is good news for participation.


WMA production and pressure

Some WMAs rise to the surface in terms of deer hunting productivity. The 2010 report offers plenty of data for hunters to make their own assessments about which areas are best bets for taking a buck for the wall, or a doe for the freezer. Of course, these areas are on top one season and may drop back the next, but several are repeatedly successful areas.

The top-five WMAs in terms of total deer harvest were Bienville, Mahannah, Leaf River, Copiah County and Tallahalla. The most successful for buck harvests were Choctaw, Leaf River, Bienville, Tallahalla and Sandy Creek.

Likewise, the top areas for taking does were Mahannah, Bienville, Upper Sardis, Copiah County, Caney Creek and Tallahalla.

The top-five WMAs in terms of the most man-days during the season include Leaf River (9,051), Upper Sardis (7,438), Chickasaw (6,431), Pascagoula River (5,251) and Sunflower (4,936).

This means these management areas saw the most hunting activity during the 2009-10 season. Hunters need to keep in perspective, though, that these particular areas are among the largest in size from 27,259 acres up to 58,480 acres. Even with high man-days, it may not always adversely impact the quality of the hunting experience.

The five WMAs with the least recorded man-days per deer harvest were Sardis Waterfowl (4), Trim Cane (4), Black Prairie (8), Mahannah (9) and Hell Creek (13). Again, hunters must check all the stats in the report as the overall deer harvests on these areas, except for Mahannah, were quite low. A high man-day count does not always imply that hunting pressure is too high, nor does a low man-day number mean success is guaranteed.


Evaluations from DMAP clubs

Statewide, there are 641 DMAP clubs encompassing 1.6 million acres of private land. During the 2009-10 season, these clubs reported a total deer harvest of 21,507, including 8,396 bucks and 13,111 does.

The top DMAP county was Warren with 91 DMAP clubs followed by Claiborne, Issaquena, Yazoo, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Hinds, Holmes and Montgomery. DMAP clubs in Warren County harvested a total of 2,763 deer during the '09-10 season, nearly 1,000 more than the next top county's DMAP harvests.

Now, obviously not every private deer hunting club in the state participates in the DMAP program, so this data does not include anywhere close to all the deer killed on private lands in Mississippi. However, for data analysis and deer-management purposes, it's a good start. Also with 82 counties statewide, a dozen counties do not have a single DMAP club signed up, so data is missing in some sectors of the state. Still DMAP data is highly valuable to the state wildlife agency.


Magnolia Records Program update

The state's Magnolia Records Program is a registry of big white-tailed bucks taken in Mississippi since 2000. Records have been kept for 10 years now, and the numbers of trophy-class bucks continue to rise every year. To date, some 5,800 bucks have been scored by the MRP scoring teams, and 3,700 have met the minimum requirements to be listed in the program records.

To make the MRP "book," a typical buck must score at least 125 inches of antler using the Boone and Crockett scoring system. Bucks that rate non-typical in format must score a minimum of 155 inches.

Rick Dillard, a fish and wildlife program manager with the U.S. Forest Service in Mississippi, was instrumental in creating the MRP, and remains active in helping to coordinate the program today.

"An analysis of those bucks meeting the minimum requirements indicates that counties in the western region of the state as well as those in the east-central region have the highest average antler scores," Dillard states in the 2010 Deer Program Report.

The counties in the state with the highest number of MRP recorded bucks include Madison (252), Claiborne (217), Yazoo (165), Hinds (159) and Attala (135).

Ironically, these counties all line up along the Big
Black River corridor across the state. Clearly, though,
the Delta counties have the largest recorded antlers along with several of the central prairie counties
especially Oktibbeha, Lowndes, Noxubee, Clay,
Winston and Webster.


How to get a copy of the report

The slick, full-color document is nearly 70 pages long, replete with maps, data graphs, photography, WMA narratives, deer health
evaluations, updates for deer programs like DMAP, harvest data, record book big buck data and much more. This report covers all manner of information about our deer herd.

This document is a must read for those hunters most interested in the white-tailed deer in Mississippi. Call your regional state deer biologist or the MDWFP state office at 601-432-2400 or check on their web site at for availability. DMAP clubs will get a copy in the mail.