Deer hunting: start of the velvet season for males

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

The season is scheduled for September 16-18.

Russ Walsh, chief of wildlife staff at the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, said these dates strike a balance between allowing males to reach their maximum antler growth for the year and give hunters a chance to harvest them before they lose their velvet.

“We think this mid-September beach is going to capture this beach; not too soon, not too late, but about right,” Walsh said. “This mid-September would strike that balance.”

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

The season took place during the 2022 legislative session when lawmakers passed Bill 1035, the Clarion Ledger reported. The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Scott Bounds, R-Philadelphia, said he introduced the bill in response to bow hunters.

“It’s an additional opportunity that bowhunters have been looking for,” Bounds said. “A velvet rack is a rack coveted by avid bowhunters.”

Bounds said the season also comes at a time when some Mississippi dollars may be losing their velvet.

“I’ve spoken with bowhunters who like to reap a losing buck,” Bounds said. “It’s a single rack.”

The bill also creates an early season on private lands and, at the discretion of the Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission, on wildlife management areas. However, there will be no WMA archery season opener this year.

“We want to have time to sort out any issues this season, if there are any,” Walsh said. “We will watch how this season unfolds and decide how we want to go about the WMAs. We want to take our time and do things right.

Additionally, in an effort to better understand the prevalence and spatial distribution of chronic wasting disease, hunters participating early in the archery season should have their males tested.

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

“They can use the app or the web portal,” Walsh said. “Everything is set up and easy to use.”

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