Mississippi’s 2020-21 hunting forecast

Outlook is good on most private lands; many WMAs offer excellent hunting for deer, ducks and small game.

Driving over the levee, my headlights shone brightly into the dark, murky water that had flooded a portion of the Mahannah Wildlife Management Area. I’d spent a lot of time scouting the WMA and had located several hot spots with buck rubs and scrapes when the flooding started.

I backed my truck down, slid my boat into the water and quickly loaded up provisions. I wasn’t going to let water stop me from harvesting a buck on public land after I’d put in so much time and effort. At least I wasn’t going down without a fight.

After a two-hour trek over flooded fields and woods, I finally hit dry ground, took a short break and gathered my bearings while planning my options. After a quick snack, I started hunting in a westerly direction then came to the end of the dry ground.

Suddenly, I detected movement about 75 yards distant. A doe got my attention, but movement a few yards behind her caught my eye, and I saw antlers moving through the brush. As the doe fed slowly, the buck followed her on a string, never looking up but browsing along behind her. As she went through an opening, I picked out that spot and waited on the buck. As soon as he went behind an oak tree, I raised my rifle and looked through my scope.

When the buck walked into the opening, I squeezed the trigger slowly.

“Ka-Boom!” roared my Browning BAR, and the buck collapsed in a heap. The public-land buck was my biggest at that time, sporting a wide rack with tall tines and weighing 210 pounds.

Each year, many hunters drive across Mississippi to various WMAs in search of the buck of a lifetime, and each year, many achieve their goal. If you’re looking to harvest a deer, kill some ducks, squirrels or rabbits, Mississippi has an opportunity waiting for you ­— if you’re willing to put in the time and effort to scout and hunt. Whether you’re hunting private or public land, there’s sure to be a world-class opportunity just waiting for you.

Statewide deer forecast

“Mississippi hunters harvest the oldest buck age-structure (of) any … state,” said William McKinley, deer program coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. “Our hunters do a great job of harvesting mature deer and passing on the younger bucks to give them time to mature.

“We had an overly wet spring this year; at my house, we reached the average annual rainfall on July 4, but it was almost double that amount last year with the flooding, and too much dilutes the nutrients and local flooding along rivers prevents vegetation growth.”

“Nutrient quality has been average to poor this year,” he said. “But overall, deer have had plenty to eat. Reports are coming in with pictures, and the deer are looking good.

“The South Delta region has seen flooding again, for the third-straight year, and that has affected the deer harvest in that area. We have serious issues with the deer herd in that area.

“We lost a lot of deer last year, as they were pushed out into other areas,” said McKinley. “The harvest was down because of the half-million-acre flood, and we don’t know if all those deer will return to the area. And we don’t know the extent that (chronic wasting disease) may have spread into other counties as a result. We won’t know the outcome of that for a few years.”

Statewide habitat

“(What makes) the most difference for the fall harvest this year will depend upon several things,” said John Gruchy, MDWFP’s private lands program coordinator. “How good of a fawn crop you’ve had in the area the past couple of years, along with the mast crop and rainfall amount we receive in the fall are determining factors. If we get a good mast crop and late-summer and fall rains to grow good food plots, then deer hunting conditions should be good.

“We’ve had good browse condition through most of the state, and, so far, it looks like the mast crop is going to be very good for white oak. We’ve also had good conditions for soft-mast production like persimmons and muscadine, so they should do well this year.”

Quail, rabbits

“Bobwhite and rabbits are somewhat dependent upon rain, and we’ve had a good year for that,” Gruchy said. “We’ve probably had a good quail and rabbit hatch this year also.”

Where conditions are good, and people are managing for early successional habitat, we should have good quail and rabbit crops.

“I’ve spent a good bit of time in southwest Mississippi and heard tons of quail,” Gruchy said. “We’ve had two good hatches in a row, and if people have the right habitat conditions in their area, they should have a good year on quail. Rabbits are also contingent on the local habitat conditions as well.”

Nathan Blount, a wildlife biologist who works on WMAs, said Divide Section WMA in Tishomingo and Prentiss counties near Iuka led the state last year in quail harvest. “We’ve been seeing a lot of broods this summer, and that’s something that’s a unique opportunity,” he said. “We have hunters coming from surrounding states to hunt quail here, too.”

Waterfowl

“Waterfowl conditions have been great,” said Gruchy. “The people who are growing summer food like corn, browntop millet and some of the moist-soil food have been doing great and got the right amount of rain at the right time.”

If you have the food and water, then all you need is cold weather to send the ducks to Mississippi. The Mississippi flyway annually brings thousands of ducks to the rivers, streams  and sloughs along the Mississippi River, and this year should be even better since the 2-year flood has subsided.

Check out the hunting regions below:

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Michael O. Giles
About Michael O. Giles 280 Articles
Mike Giles of Meridian has been hunting and fishing Mississippi since 1965. He is an award-winning wildlife photographer, writer, seminar speaker and guide.

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