Options for hunting after dark are many for Mississippi sportsmen; choose a target, get your equipment and have a ball.
It’s June, and hunting season is open — that’s right, Magnolia State hunters have options. It’s open season on Mississippi’s nuisance animals. As a matter of fact, this season never closes.
Mississippi Code – Title 40 for Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks – Part 2, Chapter 7 for nuisance animals, says that “Landowners and any leaseholders may hunt nuisance animals year-round at any time day or night with no weapon/caliber restrictions on property titled in their name or otherwise owned, or leased by them.” Anyone night-hunting on private land or leased land will need a permission letter that’s signed and dated, with contact info of the landowner/leaseholder, contact info of the permitted person and with an expiration date.
Several animals are defined as nuisance animals in Mississippi: beaver, coyote, fox, nutria, skunk and wild hogs. Whether you’re targeting animals inflicting damage to property or ponds, protecting livestock or pets, keeping varmints away from your home, or just plain hunting them for sport—Mississippi is a target-rich environment.
Which to target?
Beavers are large, furbearing herbivorous rodents with flat, scaly tails that build dams and underwater houses out of sticks and mud. They will eat water plants and the bark, twigs and leaves of many different trees. They live near any water body they can impound, including rivers, streams, creeks, lakes and ponds. And they build dams to flood areas for better access to their food sources and to hide from predators.
Trapping is said to be the best way to remove beavers, but for the night hunter, there is opportunity. Spot an area with a beaver dam or beaver sign during daylight hours and return when it’s dark — you’re sure to get a shot, and it’s a lot less trouble than trapping. Persistence will rid you of any beaver problems.
Nutria are another furbearing aquatic rodent with webbed back feet. Widely known as nutria rat, river rat and sometimes coypu, they are native to South America but are found in several southern states, including Mississippi. They can cause major damage to levees due to their burrowing activities and can also destroy native vegetation, causing erosion.
Hunters can find nutria in the same places as beaver and can target them in the same ways. If someone has a problem with these rodents, it will be obvious.
Skunks aren’t something you want to take lightly when hunting. You know what can happen if things go bad; it could be a stinky situation. Skunks come out at night and can wreak havoc on farmers’ feed and grain storages. They are unwelcomed guests to most homes and farms.
If you want to target skunks, find a farmer who has any type of feed or grain stored; you will probably be welcomed. Spot-and-stalk is the best method for targeting skunks, just don’t get too close.
Coyotes are at the top of the hit list for nuisance animals. There’s a place for them in the ecosystem, but left unchecked, the coyote population can get out of hand. These varmints can be found anywhere in wild or rural Mississippi. There are growing problems with them in urban areas and municipalities as they prey on family pets.
“When we realized coyotes were the cause of the disappearance of some of our barn cats and my favorite cat, Buddy, my husband and I purchased a thermal scope to mount on our Remington .22-250 bolt-action rifle,” said Lisa Douglas, a Lincoln County resident. “We’ve taken out half a dozen cat-killers in less than a year.”
Calling in fields and clear cuts at night is the best way to target coyotes. Still-hunting is also an option, especially in places with more homes. Towns and cities will have their ow,n special regulations if there is enough of a problem. Always consider the wind; you can’t get past their keen nose. And remember that it’s illegal to bait coyote.
Fox is another predator that can be targeted a lot like coyote. They usually won’t bother pets but can harass people’s chickens and eat some plants from gardens. Spot-and-stalk around a garden or chicken coop or calling will work at night for fox.
Wild hogs are by far the No. 1 nuisance animal. They destroy agriculture, farms, wildlife habitat, and people’s yards. This invasive species is hated by many.
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks says that trapping is the best method to control wild hogs, and that shooting them compliments control efforts. Night hunters can target specific hogs, and the biggest hogs which are always the smartest.
“Spot-and-stalk is very effective when it comes getting close enough for a kill shot,” said Jason Robertson of The Late Night Vision Show podcast and YouTube channel. “It’s not difficult to get within 50 yards of them, but they have a keen sense of smell, so you must have the right wind. Hunting over bait works well, too.”
Wild hogs are the only nuisance animal that may be taken with the use of bait. If you plan to bait hogs, please be sure to read over the regulations on the MDWFP website under wildlife and hunting/wild hog program.
Why hunt at night?
The best reason to chase nuisance animals at night is because these critters are mainly nocturnal. You can occasionally find them during daylight, but you will have greater success locating them when it’s dark. Some can be called, and calling yields better results at night.
Night-hunting is quickly becoming popular across the nation, and Mississippians are not being left out of the action. Thanks to up-to-date digital night vision, thermal-imaging optics, tube-style night vision, and modern LED hunting lights, sportsmen and women can effectively hunt legal animals at night-time.
It’s also more tolerable for the hunter at night, considering Mississippi’s summer temperatures, and the animals are more apt to be on the move.
Tools of the trade
Old-school, traditional ways of night-hunting are legal and still apply today. The use of lights is allowed for targeting nuisance animals. Grandpa’s old million candle-power Q-beam is legal, and so is the latest LED style like the Wicked Lights A67ic 3-color-in-1(red-green-white) that can be mounted above a hunting rifle’s scope.
The pros of using lights are the lower cost of equipment, ease of use and a positive identification of the game. The cons would be spooking game. It’s said that animals are not as wary of red and green lights as white light. But if a hunter illuminates an area and doesn’t quickly get the light shining in their eyes, the game will be alerted to a hunter’s presence.
Night-vision use, whether it’s digital or tube-style (Gen 1, 2, or 3), is a highly efficient and stealthy way to get close enough to varmints at night without spooking them. Tube-style utilizes whatever light is available, such as moonlight and starlight, but can also be used with an external infrared illuminator. Digital night vision needs an external illuminator to be effective, but it’s possible to use it without an illuminator on a well moon-lit night.
The pros of night vision are good detection, positive identification of game, and it won’t spook game unless a hunter is close enough to an animal that may see the small red glow of an illuminator. The cons are costs: Gen 2 and 3 night vision starts getting expensive, while entry level digital night vision optics can be had starting around $500 and range to near $1,300.
Thermal optics is where it’s at. It’s is the latest and greatest method for night hunting that’s sweeping across the nation, and it’s here to stay. Thermal can be used in any lighting conditions and can’t be beat in total darkness. It detects heat signatures of all objects and animals and produces the image on a screen inside the optic.
The pros are ease of use; it can be used in total darkness, will not spook game, has great identification range, and superb detection — nothing can hide from thermal, and game can be detected hundreds of yards away. The cons are costs and availability of some optics.
“Set a budget, and stick to it,” Robertson said. “Budget is the No. 1 concern of thermal-optic buyers, and especially first-time buyers.”
Entry level thermals are more than $1,000 and range to better than $10,000. There is good news on costs: several manufacturers have developed and sell quality thermal scopes in the $2,000 to $3,000 price range. On availability, thermal demands have led to waiting lists on some popular models.
Recommendations and considerations for night hunting
In Mississippi, nuisance animals may be taken by landowners and leaseholders year-round, at any time of day or night, with no weapon/caliber restriction on private lands. If you intend to target nuisance animals, including hogs, on public lands, be sure to research and know the applicable laws and rules for the area you intend to hunt. National forest land regulations will differ from WMA regulations, and rules will differ between WMAs.
Here are some common sense and courtesy precautions night hunters should take:
- Contact your local sheriff’s office and let them know of your night hunting plans;
- Be sure of your target. A positive identification is necessary; shooting non-target species such as deer or bear carries stiff penalties;
- Be familiar with what’s in your hunting area. Know where all houses, roads, towns, etc., are located;
- Be considerate of your neighbors or adjacent landowners and let them know of your hunting plans before shooting at night.
More options for Mississippi night hunters
Mississippi hunters have options for night-hunting in addition to nuisance animals. Raccoons, opossum and bobcats should be under consideration, but they do have set seasons. The MDWFP website says that raccoon, opossum, and bobcats may be hunted at night, with or without the use of a light. Here are the seasons on these:
- Raccoon, July 1-Sept. 30, 1 per party per night
- Opossum, raccoon and bobcat, Oct. 1- 31 (Food and sport) 5 per day, 8 per party
- Opossum, raccoon and bobcat, Nov. 1-Feb. 28 (Food, sport, and pelt). No limit.
JOIN THE CLUB, get unlimited access for $2.99/month
Become the most informed Sportsman you know, with a membership to the Mississippi Sportsman Magazine and MS-Sportsman.com.