By Ben Smith:
For the second year in a row, Mississippi is allowing deer hunters the opportunity to get an early start to the season. The Mississippi Velvet season begins this Friday and runs through Sunday, offering hunters the somewhat rare opportunity to bag a buck before it sheds its velvet. I say “somewhat rare” because that’s just what it is. Personally, I’ve never killed a buck in full velvet before, but I’m usually not terribly mad at them when the season begins in October, so my sample size of early season hunts is low. I’ve seen plenty of bucks still in velvet while on some early season hunts, but none that I wanted to shoot. If you hunt enough in early October, you’ll eventually come across a buck still in velvet. However, there is no denying that the September velvet season improves your chances of killing a fuzzy antlered buck…if that’s your jam.
For the second year in a row, I have zero intentions of participating in the velvet season (no matter how much Coach Berry criticizes my lack of initiative). For starters, have you been outside lately? It’s entirely too hot for me to climb a tree to hunt something that I’m not that excited about just yet. The thought alone of sweating in the stand and swatting mosquitoes has me ready to jump in the river to cool off. But even as much as I dislike hunting in the sweltering heat, I dislike something else even more: government interference.
Before I go any further, let me preface by saying this; I believe in conservation, I believe in collecting data, I believe in our hardworking, underpaid MDWFP employees. That said, I don’t believe in telling a man that he has to turn over something he killed on his private property for government inspection and then not do the exact same thing on public property three weeks later. If you’re lost on what I’m talking about, I’m talking about that little kicker to the velvet season: mandatory CWD sampling. If you’re still confused, let me break it down for you. To legally participate in the Mississippi Velvet Season, there are basically a handful of regulations that you must follow. One, you may only hunt with a bow (crossbows are allowed). Two, you may only kill one buck (no does) and that buck will go toward your yearly total. Three, you must report your kill by 10:00 pm the day of the kill on the MDWFP website. Reporting your kill is something I’m in favor of doing for every deer killed in Mississippi during the season. But here’s where things get off course for me.
The next regulation for the velvet season is that you may only participate on private lands. Okay, that’s not so bad…if that was the end of the regulations, that is. The next regulation is that every deer killed must be submitted for CWD sampling to an MDWFP CWD drop-off freezer or MDWFP participating taxidermist within five days of the kill. Wait, what? Here’s where I have a major problem. We are going to require private landowners to report their deer for CWD sampling during a three-day season, but we aren’t going to require ANYONE to submit a deer for CWD sampling for the next four months? That doesn’t make a lick of sense to me.
When House Bill 1035 was introduced by Rep. Scott Bounds, there is no mention of CWD anywhere to be found in the language. It does, however, state that “there shall be mandatory reporting of the harvested animal” to which I agree with. But mandatory reporting doesn’t mean sending in a sample for CWD testing. At the moment, as far as I know, there is no cure or method for ridding CWD from our state. States like Colorado have had CWD since the 1970s (first ever case was in 1967) and guess what, it’s still there today. Currently, there are CWD cases in over twenty states. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there has never been a confirmed case of transmission to humans. Given the fact that CWD has been around for quite some time with no remedy in sight, you’ve got to ask yourself why does the government want to know what’s on your private land? Better yet, why does the government not have the same enthusiasm to find out what’s on federal property?
You can’t say that the mandatory CWD sampling is for the sake of science, because if it was, we’d have to submit every deer killed throughout the season for sampling. Plus, the odds of actually finding a deer with CWD during the velvet season has to be slim considering our state has only had around two hundred confirmed positive CWD cases out of 7,878 submitted samples since 2019. Those numbers include hunter-harvested, reported sick, and road-killed deer over a five-year period. And to further prove my point that it’s not about science, we don’t even require hunters to submit their deer for CWD sampling during the hunting season in counties like Benton, which has over 125 positives. That’s more than half of the total amount of cases by itself.
So, if it’s not about science, and there’s no remedy for it, why are we being forced to test kills on private land over a three-day season, but not public land over a four-month season? Your guess is as good as mine. I say all of that to say this, if you want to participate in the velvet season then get out there and get after it! There are plenty of taxidermists participating in the CWD sampling so you shouldn’t have to worry about your trophy rotting in a government deep freezer. If you do kill a trophy buck and want to have it immortalized, give our friends over at Turner Brothers Taxidermy in Hattiesburg a call! Most importantly, be safe and have a good time.