Safety urged during hunting season, forest supervisor clears up questions

Published 4:09 pm Monday, December 19, 2022

JACKSON — US National Forests in Mississippi urges all forest visitors to practice safety when visiting a national forest. Visitors should familiarize themselves with the recent forest order that improves safety on the forest and aligns safety prohibitions with the State of Mississippi’s hunting regulations. 

Law enforcement officers with the Forest Service and the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks remain focused on educating hunters about the changes and sharing information about the November 18 order. USFS’s new rules for the forest issued in November were a topic of discussion in the MDWFP’s commission meeting. 

“We understand that people who visit our forests are learning about the requirements in the recent forest order,” said Forest Supervisor Shannon Kelardy. “At this time, the initial focus is on educating and informing individuals about the new requirements.”

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During the last month, Forest Service staff have listened to hunters to clarify requirements. Here are answers to some questions the Forest Service has received:

  • Question: What constitutes a gun case

Answer: The case should be a container designed for the safe storage of a firearm. The container should be designed to secure the weapon through the use of snaps, latches or zippers. Although a truck toolbox will conceal the weapon away from the possessor, it does not meet the intent of the order to serve as a gun case.

  • Question: Do hunters have to take their gun cases into the forest before uncasing their rifles?

Answer: No. Long guns are required to be encased while the vehicle is in motion.

  • Question: Is there a height requirement for using a harness with a tree stand?

Answer: In alignment with the Mississippi Hunter Education Program on the use of a fall arrest system (climbing harness), the climber should use the harness once they reach the top of the tree stand and attach to the tree at that point. When using a tree climber or tree saddle, the harness should be attached to the tree or used once one foot leaves the ground. The program does not establish a height requirement for the use of the harness or fall arrest system when using a tree stand.

  • Question: When will the Forest Service begin issuing violations?

Answer: Forest Service Law Enforcement will continue with a robust information and education phase as they enforce the newly implemented regulations. It is the hope of Forest Service Law Enforcement staff that the public will continue to respond in a positive manner and the need for issuing violations will not be necessary or minimal.  Forest Service Law Enforcement staff will continue to review public contacts to gauge forest users’ response to the prohibitions and efforts to comply.

  • Question: What about individuals traveling on Forest Service Roads to their homes? What if the person has or has not consumed alcohol?

Answer: If our officer stopped a person traveling home on a forest service road, the primary concern for our law enforcement officer during the contact with an operator of a motor vehicle that is under the influence of alcohol, would be violations of laws governing the operation of a motor vehicle while impaired and the original reason for the officer to make the vehicle stop.  A person traveling on a Forest Service Road would be expected to abide by all rules, regulations and laws that are applicable to traveling on a Forest Service Road.     

The Forest Service order, which covers all National Forests in Mississippi through February 1, 2026, is pursuant to 16 U.S.C. § 551, and 36 C.F.R. §§ 261.50, 261.53(e) and 261.58(bb). The signed order can be read here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/fseprd1075171.pdf.

Some of the measures in this order include:

  • prohibiting the possession or consumption of an alcoholic beverage while in possession of any weapon;
  • prohibiting hunting hogs without wearing a minimum of 500 square inches of solid unbroken fluorescent orange during hunting season, and prohibiting hunting quail or rabbits without wearing a solid hunter orange vest or cap (Existing Mississippi law requires hunters to wear hunter orange while hunting deer);
  • prohibiting the shooting of any projectile across the exterior forest boundary lines;
  • prohibiting the possession or transportation of an uncased shoulder-fired weapon in a motor vehicle;
  • and prohibiting the possession of a loaded shoulder-fired weapon within 100 feet of the centerline of any designated road.

Individuals who have questions about these restrictions should contact the local office on one of the National Forests in Mississippi which includes the following ranger districts: Bienville, Chickasawhay, Delta, De Soto, Holly Springs, Homochitto and Tombigbee.