With very few exceptions — such as turkey and a few shorebirds — every species of game animal and bird that is popular to hunt in Mississippi can be hunted in January. Many seasons, like deer and duck, are open in all areas all month, which delights a lot of people, especially Jimmy French of Madison.
“All I need to know is that every day I wake up, I can either duck hunt or deer hunt, so I am happy,” he said. “The problem is that I get four weeks of vacation every year, and every year I exit January with only one week left. I take most of it to go hunting.
“Where I deer hunt in southwest Mississippi, (January) usually includes the rut. Our bucks actually start chasing right after Jan. 1. At the places I duck hunt up in the Delta, the peak hunting is mid- to late January and this year I can hunt all the way to the 31st.”
Small-game hunters like Timmy Short of Brandon enjoy January, too. Squirrel and rabbit seasons are open throughout the month, setting up a great finale for each in February after the deer hunters have gone home.
“I’m a rabbit hunter first and a squirrel hunter second,” Short said. “Guess I never fell in love with hunting deer. I like to move, and most of the friends I grew up with were deer hunters who simply went and sat in shoot houses over big green fields. That was too bland for this country boy.
“My dad and my uncle both raised beagles, and my grandpa had a rat terrier squirrel dog. We covered many a mile behind those dogs, many, many, many miles. Everything I know about the outdoors, I learned behind a dog walking with Dad, his dad and his brothers.”
Short said his family always took a deer or two in November and December.
“Then, we started real hunting,” he said. “We’d hunt squirrels every afternoon after school, Grandpa and I, and on the weekends, we’d run the rabbits. We’d start at first light and quit when the beagles gave out, and in the winter, they could run all day.
“In early January, we’d hunt where we could get an invite to a lot of pine plantations and CRP. Back then, deer season ended in mid-January, and then we’d get invites to bring our dogs and hunt all over. Now it doesn’t end until February, but still it seems when deer season ends, everybody wants to be a rabbit hunter.”
Dove season has evolved over time, and in recent years, thanks to the loosening of federal regulations, it has increased opportunities in January. This year, the North Zone is open through Jan. 14 and the South Zone all month.
“I love that we now get so much time in January in the Delta, but I do wish they’d adjust (shorten) the other segments in September, October and November to let us hunt up here through Jan. 31 like they can this year in the South Zone,” said Glenn Overby of Greenville. “That would give us some great hunting with the migrating doves coming in from the Midwest.
“They arrive here in January and give us some great hunting. Since food supplies are so few and far between, the birds are concentrated in a few places. Where there’s a steady food source, there will be birds, and they will come back day after day no matter how often you shoot. They have to eat.”
Overby has a good argument, especially since he’s also an avid duck hunter.
“They (the feds) are letting us hunt ducks through the end of the month, and this year their frameworks for dove run through the end of the month,” he said. “Just about everybody I know who hunts ducks also dove hunts. We hunt ducks in the morning and doves in the afternoon. If both seasons ran through to the 31st, that would be ideal.”
Mississippi’s January hunting seasons
Deer, all zones but Southeast
Gun, with dogs: Open through Jan. 22.
Primitive weapon and archery: Jan. 23-Jan. 31. Hunters on private lands can use weapons of choice including modern guns.
Deer, Southeast Zone
Gun, with dogs: Open through Jan. 22.
Primitive weapon and archery: Opens Jan. 23 and closes Feb. 15. The season allows either-sex harvest through Jan. 31, but legal bucks only from Feb. 1-15.
Rabbit: Open through Feb. 28.
Squirrel: Open through Feb. 28.
Raccoon, bobcat and opossum: Open through Feb. 28
Trapping: Open through March 15.
Bobwhite quail: Open through March 7.
Dove, North Zone: Open through Jan. 14.
Dove, South Zone: Open through Jan. 31.
Duck, coot and merganser: Open through Jan. 31. Youth, veterans and active military day is Feb. 8.
Goose: Open through Jan. 31. Light goose conservation order open Feb. 1-7 and Feb. 9-March 31.
Snipe: Open through Feb. 28.
Crow: Open through Feb. 28.
Woodcock: Open through Jan. 31.