As expected, Mississippi’s Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks gave final approval in May to a reduction in doe limits for the 2017-18 deer season.

The changes also includes a change in deer management zones, dividing the massive Hill Zone into three regional areas — Northeast, East Central and Southwest. Each of the new zones carries the existing qualifications for legal bucks that existed in the Hill Zone — EITHER a 13-inch main beam or a 10-inch inside spread.

The new doe restrictions basically eliminate doe harvest on open public lands for the average hunter. Only archery hunters and youths would be allowed to kill a doe on those lands. The rules would not apply to the MDWFP’s system of Wildlife Management Areas, each of which has its own regulations.

It also impacts doe harvest on private lands. The past limit of five antlerless deer per season in the Delta and the new zones would lower to three with no daily limit (up to the three, of course). In the Southeast Zone, the previous season limit of three will change to two with only one allowed daily. 

Private property on the MDWFP’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) or Fee Management Assistance Program (FMAP) will still be allowed to acquire tags to fill their recommended antlerless harvest quotas.

The change is significant since it ends nearly a half-century of how the agency has approached deer management. As recently as two years ago, changes were made to encourage doe harvest as part of quality management.

A survey of hunters staged over the last two seasons apparently led to the doe opportunities being reduced. According to agency officials, the survey showed an overwhelming constituent concern over lower deer sightings the past few years, which biologists contributed to natural phenomena (mild winter, plentiful natural food).