Mississippi’s Top 10 stories of 2018

Best-read stores on MS-Sportsman.com shed light on what drew attention in Mississippi

Mississippi’s outdoor scene was certianly not lacking in newsworthy stories throughout 2018. It seemed like a month didn’t pass without something of great interest to hunters and fishermen taking place — some good, some not so good, some just interesting.

We looked at the view counts on MS-Sportsman.com and came up with the 10 most-read stories of 2018.

Hope you enjoy looking back at them, reading them a second time, or maybe for the first time. The following are short versions of those stories.

Deer feeding banned in 6 counties due to CWD (Feb. 12)

Supplemental feeding of deer was suspended on Feb. 9 in six west-central Mississippi counties after a laboratory in Iowa confirmed the Magnolia State’s first case of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in a free-range buck from Issaquena County.

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks immediately implemented its CWD Response Plan under the auspices of the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, part of the plan banned supplemental feeding in Claiborne, Hinds, Issaquena, Sharkey, Warren, and Yazoo counties.

No feeding of deer, including through mechanized feeders, is allowed in any fashion. Baiting hogs will continue to be allowed, but with much tighter restrictions.

Amy Blaylock, assistant chief of wildlife, said on Feb. 12 that the ban on supplemental deer feeding was just the first step in a fluid MDWFP response plan for CWD. Mississippi is the 25th state with a confirmed case of CWD.

CWD is a prion-based disease. Prion is a term derived from proteinacious infectious particle and refers to the pathogen that causes transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs), rare neurodegenerative diseases. It is believed that prions released through bodily excretions from CWD-infected deer can remain infectious for at least 10 years.

Brookhaven teen kills 200-inch non-typical buck (Jan. 9)

Joseph Blalock, 13, of Brookhaven, took his magnificent buck on his first hunt of the season, which was also the first solo hunt of his life, in Franklin County on Nov. 22. The non-typical 17-point buck grosses over 200 inches.
Joseph Blalock, 13, of Brookhaven, took his magnificent buck on his first hunt of the season, which was also the first solo hunt of his life, in Franklin County on Nov. 22. The non-typical 17-point buck grosses over 200 inches.

On his first hunt of the 2017-18 deer season, and his first alone in a deer stand, Joseph Blalock of Brookhaven took one of the most impressive bucks in Mississippi last season. The main-frame 12-point — with 17 scorable points and about five more that don’t qualify for scoring but do hold a ring — grossed 2056/8 inches as green-scored by a certified Boone & Crockett scorer, who estimates a final net of 191 to 192 inches after deductions.

All of it happened on a well-managed, small tract of family land in Franklin County, hunting with his father Tyler Blalock, an EMT, who carried his son from his Rural Rapid Response Thanksgiving Party to the deer stand for an afternoon hunt.

A single shot from the AR-15 chambered in 6.8 SPC did the job. The buck dropped where he stood ,and Joseph Blalock reached for his phone and text his dad.

“He texted me, and I called him,” Tyler Blalock said. “I could tell by the text he was excited because he wasn’t making any sense. I called him, and he said, ‘Daddy, I don’t know how big he is, but he’s outside the ears and he is really tall.’”

Tyler Blalock was wasting his time when he told the son to stay in the stand and wait for him to arrive. Joseph Blalock just had to go see the buck immediately.

“I walked across the field, and I counted 18 points at first,” he said. “I sent my dad a picture, which sped him up. I was so excited when he got there and we counted 20 points. We both freaked out.

“Dad left to go get the truck, but I stayed because I thought it was all a dream and I would wake up if I rode to the cabin.”

Second round of CWD tests all negative (March 13)

Mississippi wildlife officials have tested 128 deer — two sets of 64 each — since the state’s first case of the deadly deer disease CWD was confirmed in a buck in Issaquena County on Feb. 9.

All have tested negative, including many that were road kills and others that were reported by the public as showing signs of illness.

Russ Walsh, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks’ wildlife bureau, said that tests on the second 64 deer taken were returned negative March 9.

By coincidence, Walsh said, that is the exact number of deer tested two weeks ago from the immediate 5-mile containment zone, also all negative.

Proposal allows deer hunting within 100 yards of feeders (Sept. 24)

Baiting deer is one step away from being officially legal, after action proposed last week by the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks would remove the one major regulation that hindered the practice.

The five-man panel voted at its September meeting to remove the restriction that prevented hunting within 100 yards of a feeder, as well a few other regulation changes.

It is a move, one MDWFP official said, that has been requested many times by sportsmen and mostly by archers, who have a very restricted kill range as compared to modern rifles.

“There had been requests before, some from bow hunters,” Wildlife Bureau executive director Russ Walsh told The Clarion-Ledger newspaper. “The commission looked at it and it was their decision to do it.”

Walsh said the change would still require a final adaption vote at the October meeting as required under Mississippi’s regulatory process, but that the MDWFP would likely file a temporary order so that it would be allowed when the archery season opens in most of Mississippi on Oct. 1.

Another deer change adapted last week makes it illegal to transport a deer carcass into Mississippi from any other state, regardless of whether the state of origin has had a confirmed case of chronic wasting disease. Deer taken within the levees of the Mississippi River in either Arkansas or Louisiana would be excluded.

MDWFP deal would open more Delta land to public (July 5)

Through the Nature Conservancy, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks bought 17,000-acres of land adjacent to one of its existing wildlife management areas, Mahannah WMA, mostly in Issaquena County with some in Warren County, from longtime owner, Anderson-Tully Lumber Company.

In May, Anderson-Tully began advising hunting clubs with leased lands within the area that their leases were terminating immediately and personal property must be removed.

With the MDWFP acquiring the property, agency officials said it would be unlawful for it to lease the land for private hunting clubs, and would be used only for public access hunting.

“What this acquisition would mean to the state is we will have in perpetuity 17,000 acres adjacent to an existing WMA (wildlife management area),” Larry Castle, director of technical programs for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, told The Clarion-Ledger. “We will be able to manage it and provide opportunity.

“This is probably the last opportunity to acquire a contiguous tract of land of this size in the south Delta. It will be a milestone of true conservation. This will be something people will look at in the future and say, ‘Wow.’”

For an update on the land purchase, visit: https://www.mdwfp.com/media/news/administration/mdwfp-announces-steele-bayou-wma/

Dad helps physically challenged son get first deer with a bow (Oct. 12)

Theirs is a relationship and a story that transcends most father and son hunting kinships, little 13-year-old Jason and his dad Dana Sanders, who recently celebrated the youngster’s first deer taken with a bow.

It takes just a few seconds of talking with the father to understand his dedication to the son. When he speaks of his boy, Dana doesn’t just say Jason, he refers to him as “my Jason.”

And, it becomes quite obvious that they need each other, love each other dearly, and benefit from each other, especially when it comes to their hunting trips.

“His limitations are fine and gross-motor related, which means that he can’t walk and has muscle tone that requires him to use a wheelchair for most of his getting around,” Dana Sanders said. “He can use a walker with some assistance.”

Nine-foot gator landed —from a kayak! (Oct. 12)

Daniel Wilson, of Mobile, Alabama, shows off the 9-foot alligator he battled and eventually harvested from his Hobie PA 14 in Bayou Heron south of Pascagoula on Sept. 1.
Daniel Wilson, of Mobile, Alabama, shows off the 9-foot alligator he battled and eventually harvested from his Hobie PA 14 in Bayou Heron south of Pascagoula on Sept. 1.

In the inshore kayak community, the Hobie Pro Angler 14 is a beast in the marsh, perfect for pursuing specks, reds, bass and more — and stable as a rock if standing up and sight-fishing is your thing.

But Daniel Wilson’s plans for his PA 14 earlier this month were likely a little more aggressive than even the most confident Hobie design engineer.

The 37-year-old D’Iberville native who now lives in Mobile, Alabama, decided the stealthy paddlecraft would be a perfect platform to target alligators — and that’s just what he did on Saturday, Sept. 1 during the opening days of the Magnolia State’s alligator season on Bayou Heron south of Pascagoula.

After an epic 40-minute battle via rod-and-reel that morning, Wilson finally finished off a 9-footer from the PA 14 that he estimated weighed about 225 pounds.

“It was something I had never seen anybody do, and I wanted to be the first to my knowledge that’s ever done it in a kayak,” said Wilson, who described himself as an avid inshore kayak angler all over the coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana to East Alabama. “Over the course of the last year, I had been seeing the animals in that area and it just struck me as an idea, like you know, ‘I can do this.’

“The kayak community has these stigmas about it, like you’re limited on what you can do, and boaters say we get in their way and can’t do what they do — I just wanted to be the one to say, ‘Yes we can.’”

Mississippi officials get good news on CWD tests in south Mississippi (April 4)

The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks continues to find good news related to chronic wasting disease in an area of concern in south Mississippi.

Seventy deer tested during the 2017-18 hunting season were all found to be negative for CWD, a disease that is deadly in several species of cervids including white-tailed deer.

According to MDWFP, the agency discovered a “non-permitted, high-fenced enclosure” in 2013, southwest of Hattiesburg in Lamar County. MDWFP said an extensive investigation it undertook in conjuntion with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service revealed that animals in the enclosure had been transported from Texas facilities that were linked to CWD-positive animals.

In January 2017, a tornado damaged 6,845 feet of the enclosure fence, releasing animals into the surrounding area.

MDWFP established a 5-mile radius surveillance zone around the enclosure in an effort to detect any CWD-positive animals. Hunters who harvested a deer in this zone were asked to voluntarily submit deer heads for testing. Seventy samples were submitted for testing, and all were returned “not detected for CWD”.

Hunter takes trophy white gobbler in Copiah County (March 28)

Bo Brown is having a stellar year, and it got even better when he killed this white gobbler in Copiah County.
Bo Brown is having a stellar year, and it got even better when he killed this white gobbler in Copiah County.

Bo Brown had little choice, the way he had it figured, but to lift up his shotgun, aim and fire at the gobbler.

“This was not a shot I would normally take, I assure of you, but in that situation, I did,” he said. “It’s kind of like a ‘speak-now-or-forever-hold-your-peace’ type of thing. I didn’t have time to think, I just did it.”

What Brown did Sunday morning was send three 2-ounce rounds of No. 4 shot from his Remington 1100 through the woods at a tom turkey that his hunting party had run into in the woods of Copiah County.

“Probably 50 to 60 yards, maybe further,” Brown said. “Like I said, not a shot I’d normally take, but this was not a normal situation.”

This was no run-of-the-mill gobbler either. It was mostly white.

It was also big, about 20 pounds, and was sporting a big beard, and, as Brown would later learn, it had long, sharp, hooked spurs measuring 1¼ and 1 3/16 inches.

A trophy gobbler by any definition, the bird was simply beautiful.

“My buddy told me, ‘dude, you got a trophy bird there, and it’s white to boot’ and he’s right,” Brown said. “I am very lucky, very fortunate to have killed this bird, and it’s only my second gobbler.”

Capitol report: Harvest reporting bill moves step closer (March 1)

Mississippi deer and turkey hunters are a step close to a mandatory harvest report system after the Senate wildlife committee amended a House bill that would establish the regulation beginning in 2019.

House Bill 1390, as amended, now goes to the full Senate for consideration. The deadline for action is Wednesday (March 7).

The two versions, passed by the House and by the Senate committee, are similar, which bodes well for the bill’s chances.

But the interesting thing about H.B. 1390 is not what it includes but what it does not— no mention of using the program for enforcement of bag limits.

What it says: “The MDWFP shall develop, implement and regulate a mandatory harvest reporting program for white-tailed deer or wild turkey or both. The purpose of this program is to collect and compile harvest data of such quality and quantity as to be able to assist the Legislature and the Commission in formulating the wildlife resource conservation policy for the State of Mississippi.”

The original bill, as authored and introduced by House Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee chairman Scott Bounds and co-author Ken Morgan, did include the line “monitor bag limit compliance by any means,” but it was stricken prior to committee vote in the House.

The bill requires that “the harvest reporting program shall be simple to use by sportsmen so as to promote compliance and accurate reporting. The program may include, but is not limited to, such means as a mobile smartphone application, online web-based reporting, or such other electronic or digital method(s) as will promote ease of use.”

H.B. 1390 would require the public to report any and all kills within four days of the harvest.