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franklin county times

Changes in the deer woods

By Staff
Mike Giles / outdoors writer
October 15, 2004
Editor's note: In response to many local hunters' concerns about the rising cost of deer leases, we have compiled the following piece. Part two will run next week.
While the deer hunting in many parts of our state only gets better and better, there are problems in the deer woods. Many of these problems are a direct result of Mississippi's fantastic whitetail deer program. As landowners, hunters and state wildlife personnel worked together for many years, the deer population literally exploded. In those early days killing a doe or female deer was almost as bad as the taking of a human life. You just didn't do it! If someone did take a doe on purpose, they were likely to pay a heavy price for their crime. Almost every one worked together, at a time when deer hunting wasn't the most popular thing to do.
With the change in recent whitetail management philosophy in our state, we have seen many changes, some of them good, and some not so good. The good news is that in some areas we are seeing deer unlike any ever taken before in the Magnolia State. Who can forget about the world record Fulton buck taken in Winston County? And then there was the huge 275-pound buck taken by Tim Campbell in the Mississippi Delta. One would have to look far and wide to find better deer than those being taken right here in our great state.
And therein lies much of the problem, as many average working class sportsmen seem to think. While discussing some of my upcoming hunting articles with Darryl Barrett of Greenwood, I was made aware of some of that sentiment. "Mike, we don't need any more publicity about the gigantic bucks or about the great deer population we have here in our state," Barrett said. "Before you know it we won't have a place to hunt. Our land will be leased by out-of-state or wealthy hunters that have plenty of money." At first I was a little taken aback by the statement, but fully realized what he was saying. In reality, it is already happening all around our state. When you take barbers, carpenters, plumbers, and everyday workers out of the woods, what will we have left?
Strangers in our own land
While much of the land adjacent to the Mississippi River and the rich Delta land have been high priced for many years, other areas of the state didn't have that problem until recently. Now some may say that if you play, you've got to pay. And that might sound good for people who have money to burn. However, the average working man who helped build our deer population can't compete with people coming out of areas such as New Orleans or other metropolitan areas in other states. While deer camp costs have risen astronomically, hunters' salaries have not kept pace.
At first we heard hunters in Southwest Mississippi complaining that they didn't have places to hunt because of the Louisiana hunters. Then many of them started moving farther and farther in search of land. Now I'm not against people from other states hunting here. If I lived in or around New Orleans, or other metropolitan areas, and didn't have a place to hunt, I would try to find someplace, anyplace. However, I am opposed to non-resident hunters leasing all of the land and shutting out local hunters. These same local hunters pay our sales taxes, property taxes and income taxes and support our rural communities and towns throughout our state on a daily basis. Their families and daily activities produce more for the local economy than non-resident hunters will ever contribute. And in fact, they are and have been the driving force behind the success of our bountiful wildlife success stories in the state. Now I don't blame the landowners for accepting what they are offered, but it just illustrates what is happening to many of our working people today. They are literally getting priced out of the hunting lands that they have hunted their whole lives! Many of these hunters are facing the stark reality that they may have no choice but to quit deer hunting. I can only wonder what will happen in our local communities when mostly non-resident hunters control all of the hunting rights.

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