Locals expect deer season to become more active

Published 2:43 am Sunday, December 13, 2009

NATCHEZ — For local deer hunters, this year’s deer season has been an active one so far, and deer activity is only expected to heat up more, even as the weather cools.

Chad Dacus, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ deer program coordinator, said more deer are expected to be on the move as we get further into December. The combination of vegetation dying because of cold weather and deer mating season kicking into gear means a better chance for harvest, he said.

“For hunting this time of the year, several factors come into play,” Dacus said. “We’ve already had our first frost, so most of the green vegetation is either dead or dying. Also, breeding season, or the rut, really starts to begin right about now.

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“Finally, we’ll hopefully have more kids get out and do a little hunting with school winding down. The combination of lack of food availability and the rut means that we’ll see increased deer movement. All together, it makes for a really interesting time in the woods.”

Chuck Fields, a local hunter, said the season started slow.

“Hunting season’s been about average at best, I guess you could say,” Fields said. “It started out pretty slowly, but as the weather has cooled lately, things have heated up.”

Local businesses are also making good profits on hunting activities this year. Carl Dunn, owner of Dunn’s Deer Market, said traffic has been busy overall, but has slowed down recently.

“We’ve had a better bow and arrow season this year than in years past,” Dunn said. “Overall, it’s been a fair season for us. It’s been a little slow since muzzle-loading season started, but we expect it to pick up when gun season kicks back.”

Dunn said gun season starts again Dec. 16 and runs “about through Jan. 20.”

SportsCenter has seen no shortage in sales, and gun salesman Vernon Smith said November and December have been two good months with plenty of hunters purchasing firearms.

“We’ve sold a lot of guns these past two months,” Smith said. “Business has been excellent.”

Smith, himself a hunter, also pointed to deer mating season as a time in which he expects bigger game to be harvested.

“Hunting season’s going great. You’re always going to have guys that couldn’t kill a deer if it walked right up to them, but we’ve had some beautiful deer taken.

“The rut begins around this time of the month and runs through Christmas, so that’s when we’ll really see some big deer taken.”

One area not seeing a lot of hunting activity is St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge has been closed to gun hunting since early November due to flooding.

Assistant Refuge Manager Chris Swanson said it’s difficult to say whether the lack of deer being taken will affect deer population control.

“That’s a question probably best answered at the end of January,” Swanson said. “A lot of them move to private lands because of the flooding, so they could simply get harvested there instead of here.”