Stable and healthy are probably the two best words to describe the Mississippi deer herd. “The herd was in very good shape coming out of winter and into spring, as Mississippi had an outstanding acorn crop and a very mild winter in 2011,” said William McKinley, whitetail deer program biologist for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks. “According to our spring herd health evaluations, the deer were in excellent condition in the spring. Early reports suggest a high fawn crop.”
However, a wet spring soon gave way to a very dry summer. “A dry June and 100-degree temps lessened the amount and quality of natural vegetation,” McKinley notes.
But it didn’t last long.
“We had only a couple of weeks of [drought] stress,” he said. “While the rest of the country has suffered, we have had a really good summer. It started raining in early July. Based on the photos folks have been sending me, we had a very good antler growing season! With the reduction in harvest last year, a lot of older bucks got even older. Looking like it’s going to be a good season!”
One fly, or midge, in the ointment: epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). “We are having more than average EHD reports,” McKinley says. “Not the worst we’ve seen, but several more than in the past couple of years.”
The Delta region, the alluvial plain located between the Mississippi and Yazoo Rivers in northwestern Mississippi, has consistently produced the largest bucks, as has the adjoining Thick Loess Hills.
Peak of breeding varies considerably across the state, from some areas in northwestern Mississippi having a peak rut in late November to areas in the southeast seeing the rut peak in early February.
The Southern Regional Report**
It looks like this will be another strong season for southeastern deer hunters, with deer herds in good to very good condition. Deer populations are stable to slightly growing, and all states expected a strong fawn crop this year. The central south (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas) saw drought expand over the region as summer went forward. However, this part of the country did receive substantial spring and early-summer rains, which generated a good deal of forage, so deer went into the summer in pretty good condition.
Top Trophy Zones**
AR: Arkansas and Chicot counties.
FL: Alachua, Gadsden, and Jefferson counties.
LA: Avoyelles, Concordia, and East Feliciana parishes.
MS: Delta counties like Bolivar, Tallahatchie, and Yazoo are well represented in the record books. Outside of the Delta, Adams County has produced trophy bucks for the past 50 years, including the current state typical record, a 10-pointer killed in 2010 that netted an amazing 184 6⁄8.
OK: Osage and Coal counties. The latter is developing a reputation as a big-buck county, and that was only enhanced last year when 13-year-old Kelsey McKay shot a 200 7⁄8-inch monster non-typical. It is the largest buck ever taken in Coal, a county well represented in the state record books for both typical and non-typical whitetails.
SC: Orangeburg, Aiken, Fairfield, and Colleton counties.
TN: Cumberland and Van Buren counties, and the Tennessee sections of the U.S. Army’s Fort Campbell Military Installation.
TX: Irion, Kennedy, Maverick, Tom Green, and Webb counties.