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'Tis the season to enjoy Mississippi's public land
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- While hunting on public land can be difficult and overwhelming at times, just knowing a few tips can help increase your success.
There are plenty of places throughout Mississippi to get a taste of some of the finest hunting anywhere in the country. Residents in the southeast part of our state enjoy hunting opportunities in the DeSoto National Forest. This semicoastal national forest provides just over 500,000 acres of open-canopy pine forest habitat.
In southwestern Mississippi, residents have Homochitto National Forest, which covers about 190,000 acres, providing a good mix of upland pine-hickory habitat and bottomland hardwoods for squirrel and deer hunters alike.
In the northwestern area of Mississippi, hunters have access to more than 150,000 acres in the Holly Springs National Forest and 67,000 acres in the Tombigbee National Forest. Both of these public resources provide great upland oak-hickory-pine forests for squirrel and deer hunters, as well as plenty of bottomland hardwoods.
Delta hunters may enjoy some of the flattest, most fertile land in the world. The Delta National Forest with 60,000 acres provides bottomland hardwoods surrounded by agriculture and river bottoms. Whether hunters are interested in deer, squirrel, raccoon or waterfowl hunting, this is the place to be. Waterfowl hunters will typically flock to this region to participate in some of the best duck and goose hunting in the country.
Central Mississippi hunters may be more inclined to travel to one of the adjacent regions of the state, depending on the game they seek. If travel logistics prove difficult, which they often do during the holiday season, then remaining local is not a bad option. Almost 180,000 acres in the Bienville National Forest may be the right ticket for providing a hunting fix.
Knowing when, where and how to access different areas of a national forest is one of the most limiting factors for hunters. Some areas may require a watercraft or all-terrain vehicle to access the best spots, depending on seasonal rainfall and rising water levels in rivers and creeks. Kiosks are strategically placed around and throughout each national forest and wildlife management area to aid hunters with this issue.
Just speaking with an area manager or biologist of a particular national forest or wildlife management area can greatly increase the odds of success. Taking a day or two in advance to visit your area of interest and scout the landscape, communicate with locals and managers, and familiarize yourself with the area will make all of the difference.
If hunting isn’t your forte, our state also offers plenty of other recreational opportunities to partake in. Sky Lake Wildlife Management Area (just north of Belzoni) contains the largest stand of ancient cypress in the world, a privilege that other states cannot claim. Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge (south of Starkville) provides excellent birdwatching and hiking, as well as canoeing and kayaking through permanent and seasonal wetlands. And finally, contained inside the DeSoto National Forest are the state’s only two wilderness areas (Black Creek and Leaf River Wilderness areas) which provide quality outdoor opportunities for all parties, whether family or individual adventure.
During this special season, take advantage of our state’s wonderful heritage and natural resources to plan your next outdoor activity, while making safety, fair chase and hunting/fellowshipping with good company your top priorities.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.