Commissioners could set sights on hunting rule changes

Published 12:45 pm Wednesday, April 10, 2024

BROOKHAVEN — Commissioners for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks are set to meet April 18 in Tupelo for a regularly scheduled monthly meeting. It is possible a few rule changes for hunting season could come up based off of past discussion at meetings. The tentative agenda for the April 18th commission meeting will not be released to the public until likely Friday. 

One of those potential rule changes could be the reinstatement of a fall turkey season. Commissioners heard a public comment at the March meeting concerning the reinstatement of fall turkey hunting and others voicing their thoughts in opposition. No action was taken but commissioners hinted at the issue coming up in April. 

Discussion on a statewide supplemental feeding ban could continue in April. Commissioners heard an educational session on disease management in relation to supplemental feeding and public comment from people. 

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Ol’ bushy tail

April’s commission meeting could allow for proposed rule changes to increase the squirrel bag limit to be brought to the table. Right now, Mississippi squirrel hunters are limited to eight squirrels a day during the fall season. A possible rule change could bump that number to 10.

Commissioners tabled the discussion at a February meeting until the WMA rules are brought forward, typically done in April. Small game biologist Rick Hamrick said the proposed bag limit increase should not have a negative impact on squirrels. Rule changes typically enter a 30 day public comment period before they are made final. 

“A small increase in bag limit is not something that should have a negative impact on squirrel populations. For a lot of game species, we often see the majority of hunters take about the same number on average even if the limit is increased,” Hamrick said. “Interestingly this can sometimes give people the perception that numbers are not as good or a lower sense of hunt satisfaction.” 

Last year, a public commenter asked if the MDWFP could see about a lengthened spring squirrel season. The season currently runs from March 15 to June 1. State law would need to be changed to extend the season. 

Hamrick said he does not believe a couple week extension of the spring season would be detrimental. He added the MDWFP has data showing the period of time to be a period of reproductive inactivity. 

“Most of the young from the winter breeding period are weaned by then and quite a few will be lost to various causes anyway,” Hamrick said. “So harvesting some of those young squirrels then is going to balance out. I also doubt very many people would participate in squirrel hunting in June and early July but I could be wrong.” 

He said if asked for a position about extending the fall season into March it would be a different scenario. Mississippi’s current squirrel season framework for the fall is from October 1 to February 28, even in leap years. 

Hamrick said the period is already “well into a peak reproductive season,” for squirrels. Nursing young squirrels could potentially be in their nests by the end of February and early March. Extending the season an extra week may not have a substantial negative impact on populations but the MDWFP would need to consider the young-weaning period as a biology and conservation argument. 

MDWFP has the power to change the bag limits but general season frameworks require a statute change.  


Waterfowl dates

Commissioners will convene on a special teleconference meeting later in April to discuss the waterfowl season date selection. The meeting will be held April 25, 2024 to review and approve the 2024 to 2025 migratory waterfowl season framework. 

MDWFP stated no other items will be discussed nor any other vote or action anticipated or required. A live audio stream of the meeting will be on the MDWFP website and is open to the public. 

Waterfowl Program Coordinator Houston Havens gave The Daily Leader an update on the annual Mississippi Flyway Council meeting, which was at the end of March. He said there was nothing discussed which would impact hunting seasons or regulations and it was mostly an administrative update. Mississippi Flyway partners additionally discussed funding requests for population monitoring programs at the meeting.