MISSISSIPPI

Deer Forecast 2004 -- SOUTH

Outdoor Life Online Editor

Bucks now must have a 12- or 15-inch inside spread on 31 of the state's 46 public WMAs, with the latter restriction applying to those in the fertile Mississippi River Delta.

Magnolia State bucks have been protected by a four-point rule since 1995, but concerns about high-grading young deer and statewide support from hunters helped spark the change.

"The new restrictions are based on the soil physiographic regions," says state deer project leader William McKinley. "Deer are highly variable depending on the dirt they're growing on, and the Delta has some of the most fertile soil in the Southeast. It's not for trophy management; it's to improve the age structure on the WMAs and the buck-doe ratio on specific WMAs."

Monster bucks were taken in Yazoo and Madison counties last year, including a heavy-tined 14-pointer killed by Jeff Saik of Jackson, Miss. It pushed 300 pounds on the hoof and was rough-scored at 1566/8. A new state non-typical archery record from Adams County, taken by Tracy Laird of Natchez, scored 2361/8.

Other changes include the addition of five days of youth deer hunting, beginning the Saturday prior to the start of firearms season. It is open to anyone age 15 or younger.

Contact: Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (601-432-2400; www .mdwfp.com).