I recently learned that our Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has come up with a plan that might help get a better estimate of deer and turkey kills each season. Such a plan is long overdue.
I have never had confidence in the so-called formula that has been used to estimate kill figures and now I think that maybe the people at the state agency didn't have a lot of confidence in the system either.
Keeping an accurate record of wildlife kills is a terribly hard job at best. I have hunted in many states that had systems of different sorts, usually including tags that must be placed on the bird or animal. The tags normally are issued with the purchase of a license.
In Missouri, where I have hunted turkeys for many years, you can buy a turkey license that includes the number of tags you need for the season limit. After killing a bird and tagging it, you are required by law to go to the nearest check station and have the bird recorded with weight, spur length, and beard length. That's quite a job for someone hunting a long way from a checking station. I think there is only one station per county. No doubt, a lot of birds bagged way back in the boondocks never see a tag or a checking station.
The system proposed for Mississippi will have a Harvest Report Card that is to be in the possession of anyone hunting deer or turkey. The card will have notches and lines for each deer and turkey that can be taken legally. Hunters will be required to validate their cards by notching the appropriate lines immediately after bagging animals. Wardens would then be able to check a card to see that it had been validated properly.
Hunters will be required to call a toll-free number (800-I GOT ONE) within 24 hours after kills. A computerized survey will record considerable data about the deer and turkey taken.
It might sound like a bit of trouble, but it undoubtedly would be better than the hit-or-miss system presently in use. I am not sure what the procedure will be for youngsters and elderly hunters who are not required to purchase hunting licenses.
You can get a full report in the spring issue of Delta Wildlife Foundation's fine magazine Delta Wildlife. While I'm at it, let me put in a strong plug for the foundation. The volunteer-supported group has done a remarkable job for every resident and visitor to the Mississippi Delta. The good works are too numerous to name in this short column, but I can assure you that supporting the foundation will repay you over and over in fine conservation work in the Delta and surrounding country.
Its duck program alone has done wonders for Delta sportsmen. We have become known nationwide for having put more good wintering habitat under water than any other state.
Currently the foundation is engaged in a quail habitat restoration project. I feel certain that in a very few years Deltans will again be seeing and hearing and hunting what I consider to be the finest of all our wonderful game birds.
All of the information you need to join and support this fine foundation can be obtained by writing to: Delta Wildlife Foundation, P.O. Box 276, Stoneville, Miss. 38776. If you prefer, you can call the foundation at 662-686-3370. The fine magazine that comes with a membership is worth the price of your contribution. I guarantee it!