- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Human behavior is the biggest reason that Mississippi’s statewide deer season was marginal, state biologists say.

The statewide season ended Saturday, though legal bucks may be hunted Feb. 1-15 in the Southeast Zone.

Biologists estimate there are about 1.7 million deer in Mississippi, with one buck for every three does, WLOX-TV (https://bit.ly/1z0eHkt) reported.

Some people think the problem is that does are being over-hunted.

“The woods are overpopulated with hunters that are shooting too many does. As long as they keep killing high numbers of does, it’s only going to get worse,” Craig Williamson of Vicksburg told The Clarion-Ledger (https://on.thec-l.com/1LzHzKf ).

Not so, said biologist Lann Wilf, deer program leader for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks in Jackson.

“We’re out in February and seeing deer everywhere,” he said. “The average hunter is not out there when we’re doing herd health surveys in February and March.”

Those surveys find that deer weigh less than they used to - and increasing population is the main reason, Wilf said. He said. The average doe in upper thick loess regions weighed 118 pounds in 2014, compared to 130 in 1993, Wilf said.

There are several reasons that hunters aren’t seeing those deer, he said. One is that many hunters stick to one stand rather than moving around. Another is that too many ATVs are out in the woods, spooking the deer.

And, he said, “I really think widespread feeding deer with corn and protein is killing deer movement. With the widespread feeding, deer do not have to hustle to feed.”

Dan Moulder of Brandon agreed that human pressure on deer is to blame for reduced sightings.

Game survey photos at night indicate plenty of deer, he said, and he sees many dead deer along the roads.

“I keep hearing there’s no deer,” Moulder said. “We have the most deer outside of Texas. Our insurance companies sure believe it.”

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