With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, wildlife management area hunters should be getting their gear in order and doing a little scouting to be certain their favorite hunting spot is still there and hasn’t been logged or washed away by the October rains.
The wildlife management areas in the western part of the state have already had some deer hunts, and on the Friday after Thanksgiving most if not all of the WMAs will be open for deer hunting.
Economic issues have caused the Department of Wildlife & Fisheries to take a closer look at how these hunts are managed. The daily permit hunts where hunters traditionally check in with DWF personnel prior to hunting, show their license and receive a daily permit have been eliminated. All hunters will check-in through the self-clearing stations and, for the most part, will check themselves out and report their deer harvest on the check-out card.
A few areas do have a mandatory deer check, however, so check regulations to be certain.
All hunters age 18 to 59 must have the $15 state WMA hunting permit in addition to any other required licenses (basic and big game permits).
Successful hunters will tag their deer with their license deer tags, and then report and validate their kill. If you kill a deer on an area and know that DWF personnel are set-up somewhere checking deer, take the time and let them look at the deer so they can get the important biological data from the animal. This information is important for the sound management of the deer herds on these areas.
Hunting on a wildlife management area can be quite challenging. I had a good chuckle the other day when the host of an outdoor show said that the reason they don’t film hunts on public lands is because it takes too much time to find deer. It is easier for them to film on private lands where they can hunt over bait or food plots.
Hunters on WMAs have to put forth some effort to locate and find deer. For the most part, hunting around a food source or a travel corridor is the key to success during the early season. There are some food plantings on WMAs where hunters can hunt, but again economic problems have caused the department to cut back on these. Mast and native browse are the food items the wma hunters should focus on right now.
Hunters also need a good understanding of the terrain, and have to take into account movement of other hunters. The rut is probably happening on some of the Area 2 and 3 WMAs, and hunters could use rut tactics on these areas.
I hunt on Pearl River WMA, and this area opened on Nov. 7 for primitive hunting. I had made a few scouting trips during the squirrel season, checking on the mast crop and areas of heavy browsing. There are a few acorns but not many, and it appears that both deer and hogs are moving around in search of this food source. I also have found high utilization of trumpet creeper browse.
Pearl River is an area that was dramatically impacted by Hurricane Katrina, and it is tough hunting. Blackberry thickets are everywhere and, while deer readily eat this browse, because it is everywhere it is difficult to decide where to set up.
For that reason I have been keying in on trumpet creeper.
Hurricane Ida had the tides up last week, and so I headed to a good ridge and connected with a 5-year-old doe. The next morning I went to one of the areas where the trumpet creeper was being heavily browsed, and I had another adult doe and fawn in my lap at 7 a.m. At one point, the doe was about 10 feet from me (I was set up on a fallen tree with a big sweetgum to my back and a water oak in front of me) with her nose to the ground searching for acorns. Since Katrina hunter numbers have fallen off and I don’t think this deer had ever seen a human!
I probably will be at this spot for the Thanksgiving hunt.
I will be heading to Jackson-Bienville for Nov. 21. The rut on Jackson-Bienville begins about mid December, so most hunters will be hunting the food sources during that hunt. On this area, I focus on the browse and the travel corridors.
The primitive season opened on Nov. 14 in Area 1, and I will be hunting a few days in the Clinton area prior to heading out for Jackson-Bienville My focus will be primarily in the drains and ridges with oaks; there is a pretty good water oak, cherry bark and white oak crop.
It looks like it is going to be a pretty good season.