Permit me, please, to ask you a few questions. In a moment, you'll see why.

1) Are you a resident of a state other than Mississippi?

2) Have you ever hunted deer in Mississippi on land that you did not own or on land that was leased by a friend?

3) In that time, have you ever shot a doe?

Well, my friend, if you've answered yes to these questions, I have some bad news for you: You're a lawbreaker.

Louisiana Sportsman magazine has learned of an obscure Mississippi law that makes it illegal to kill does in the Magnolia State for all non-residents. The only exceptions are for landowners hunting the actual land that they own and for lessees hunting the specific land that they lease. If you've hunted as a guest at someone else's land or on state or federal property in Mississippi and you've killed a doe, you are a poacher, according to Mississippi law.

As impossible as this is to believe, it's a fact. Lt. Col. John Collins, assistant chief of Law for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, confirmed it while being interviewed by Sportsman staffer Andy Crawford for a story that appears later in this issue.

So not only are out-of-state residents charged exorbitant prices to hunt deer in Mississippi, they're not even afforded the same privileges as in-state residents. Mississippians can kill as many as five does per year, on any land that they're legally allowed to hunt, for only $17. Louisiana residents have to pay $300 for the right to kill any deer, but those deer better not be does unless the hunter is on land he personally owns or leases.

This is a crazy law, and it's patently unfair. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Mississippi when Louisiana sought to raise its out-of-state saltwater licenses from $67 to $110 in May 2000. LDWF Secretary Jimmy Jenkins was derided in newspapers and blasted on radio shows from Pascagoula to Picayune.

But at least that non-resident license would afford its purchaser the same rights and privileges as in-state anglers. The same is clearly not true of Mississippi's ridiculously priced non-resident hunting license.

Mississippi needs to change this law, and change it before the 2003-04 hunting season. If legislators don't act on it in their next legislative session, Louisiana ought to respond by altering its non-resident saltwater license to allow the harvest of all legal fish except speckled trout.

Mississippi holds the cards. Either that state's legislators can act to strike this law from the books, or Louisiana and its neighbor can enter another game of tit for tat.