Deer hunting: Early velvet season for bucks set

Deer hunters in Mississippi will have a chance to harvest a buck in velvet during the state’s first early archery hunt in September.

The season is set for Sept. 16-18.

Russ Walsh, wildlife chief of staff for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said those dates reach a balance between allowing bucks to reach their maximum antler growth for the year and giving hunters a chance to harvest them before they shed their velvet.

“We feel like that mid-September range is going to capture that range; not too early, not too late, but just about right, ”Walsh said. “That mid-September would strike that balance.”

During the growth period, white-tailed bucks’ antlers are covered with a velvet-like outer layer. According to the Mississippi State University Deer Ecology and Management Lab, as blood flow in the antlers is restricted due to hardening, the velvet layer dies and bucks rub it off on vegetation. That generally occurs before the opening day of the traditional archery season for deer which is Oct. 1 for most of the state and Oct. 15 in the Southeast Unit.

The season came about during the 2022 Legislative session when lawmakers passed House Bill 1035, the Clarion Ledger reported. Author of the bill, Rep. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia, has said he introduced the bill in response to bowhunters.

“It’s an additional opportunity bowhunters wanted,” Bounds said. “A velvet rack is a coveted rack by passionate bowhunters.”

Bounds said the season also falls at a time when some bucks in Mississippi may be in the process of shedding their velvet.

“I’ve talked to bowhunters who like to harvest a buck that’s shedding,” Bounds said. “It’s a unique rack.”

The bill also creates an early season on private land and, at the discretion of the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, on Wildlife Management Areas. However, there won’t be an early archery season on any WMAs this year.

“We want to have time to iron out any kinks in the season, if there are any,” Walsh said. “We’ll monitor how this season goes and decide how we want to go about it on WMAs. We want to take our time and do it right. ”

In addition, in an effort to gain a better understanding of chronic wasting disease’s prevalence and spatial distribution, hunters participating in the early archery season are required to have their bucks tested.

Hunters are also required to report their harvests to provide additional data for biologists.

“They can use the app or the web portal,” Walsh said. “That’s all set up and easy to use.”

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