Refuge remains closed to hunting

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045;&045; High water continues to disrupt the hunting season at St. Catherine Wildlife Refuge, with three-fourths of the 25,000-acre park now under water, Randy Breland said Wednesday.

The refuge will remain closed to hunting until Jan. 22, opening then for the last archery season and for rabbit and squirrel hunting.

&uot;Normally, we’re not flooded this time of the year,’ Breland said. &uot;We expect the high water to come in January, but we’ve had an early rise in the river and the deer are real concentrated right now.&uot;

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Deer are seeking refuge from the high water as well as from hunters in camps that surround the St. Catherine property, he said.

&uot;We’re not happy to have to close to hunting,&uot; Breland said. &uot;But our first concern is public safety and then damage to the deer herd.&uot;

Pete Smith, a retiree who volunteers at St. Catherine, said visitors to the refuge can see deer on the road that leads to the information center.

&uot;It would be unsafe for the hunters and a slaughter of the deer&uot; for hunting to be allowed now, he said.

&uot;Randy and all of them are watching and patrolling every day,&uot; Smith said. &uot;Within about three weeks, the deer should be able to go back to the low ground.&uot;

Breland said he has been pleased by the public’s understanding. &uot;It closes out hunting for those of us here at the refuge, too,&uot; he said. &uot;There have been some people disappointed, but they have been understanding of why we have to do this.&uot;

The refuge has been closed to hunting for most of December because of the high water.