New dog-hunting regulations for Homochitto National Forest approved

Hunters will now have to go fulfill a series of permitting requirements to use dogs within the confines of the Homochitto National Forest.

Youth hunts, early primitive weapons season and Sunday hunting on WMAs also addressed

The Mississippi Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks on yesterday (May 24) adopted four 2011-12 deer-hunting regulations changes, including a provision that places new restrictions on dog hunters in the Homochitto National Forest.

What surprised many in attendance was the fact that there was no one present to speak either for or against any of the proposals, included the much-debated Homochitto National Forest dog-hunting proposal that will require hunters within the national forest to take a series of new steps to legally use dogs.

“We had met previously with groups representing both sides of the issue, and had already had multiple public comment sessions,” MDWFP’s Director of Technical Programs Larry Castle said. “And since neither side requested to speak at the Commission meeting, we can only assume that they were satisfied with the answers provided to their concerns about this proposal.”

Probably the most-controversial change pertains to dog hunting within the Homochitto National Forest.

Under the new regulations, anyone hunting in the forest with dogs between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31 must obtain a permit to hunt any animal or to train dogs on areas open to deer hunting with dogs.

The permit is free, and all hunters 16 years old and older hunting with a group must be listed on the permit prior to hunting.  All hunters hunting with dogs or with a dog-hunting group also must have permit on their person while hunting.

Five guest permits will be available in addition to the individuals listed on the permit. Guest permits will be valid for four consecutive days, and must be filled out with the date, hunter’s name, hunting license number and the hunter’s signature before being use. All guests must have the permit on their person while hunting.

Guest permits must be turned in to the U.S. Forest Service Meadville office for replacement guest permits to be issued. When guest permits are turned in, a season permit will be issued for these individuals and replacement guest permits will be issued to the group.

Permit numbers also must be visually displayed on the back window of all vehicles in the hunting group. A window permit will be provided with each individual permit issued. Hunters may use the window permit or create their own, provided the permit number is displayed using 3-inch block numbers in contrast to the background.

Permits will be available from the U.S. Forest Service Meadville office located at 1200 Highway 184 East in Meadville. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Also, dogs must wear a functional tracking collar and be identified at all times with the permit number and the owner’s contact information. Dogs must be kept on the Homochitto National Forest lands that allow deer hunting with dogs.

Upon conviction or documented evidence of two violations of these new regulations, the dog-hunting permit may be revoked by a review panel of MDWFP and U.S. Forest Service officials for a period of 20 days. Upon the third conviction or documented evidence of a violation, the dog-hunting permit may be revoked by a review panel of MDWF&P and U.S. Forest Service officials for a period of one year.

Another change approved during the Commission meeting helps clear up some of the confusion about youth deer hunts.

In Zones 1 and 3, the season dates for the youth deer hunts will run from Nov. 5 until Jan. 31.  In Zone 2, the dates will be from Nov, 5 until Feb. 15.

In addition, the Youth Deer Hunts will now be allowed on all open National Forest Service land.

Also, Sunday hunting on all of the state’s wildlife management areas is allowed instead of the previous regulations that allowed Sunday hunting only on selective WMAs.

Finally, the regulations changes eliminate the early primitive weapon season in Deer Management Zone 2. The early primitive weapon season in Zones 1 and 3, as well as the regular primitive weapon season in all three deer management zones will be unaffected by this change.

The final notice of the regulations changes will now go to the Secretary of State, and will become law 30 days after Secretary of State Delbert Hoseman signs the final notice.

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