Skip to main content

Mississippi

Hunting

Deer Hunting: Inaugural Velvet Season Set for September

White-tailed Buck with antlers in velvet

By William T. McKinley and Kamen Campbell

Each year white-tailed deer bucks that are at least 1 year old grow a new set of antlers. Antlers begin to show in April and May, and about a month after a buck sheds his previous set. A living tissue called velvet covers the antlers as they grow. This velvet is full of blood vessels that supply the growing antler with nutrients. Antler growth begins slowly, and then accelerates during June and July. Near the fall equinox, the antlers begin to mineralize and blood flow through the velvet is shut off. Antler growth stops and the antlers harden for a month. So why should this cycle be important to hunters? Because a new hunting opportunity is on the horizon.

The Mississippi legislature established a velvet deer hunting season during the 2022 regular session. House Bill 1035 added language to MISS. CODE ANN. §49-7-31, which sets the framework for deer hunting seasons in Mississippi. The Commission for Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks amended the Administrative Code to reflect the new regulation. Title 40: Part 2, Chapter 2, Rule 2.2 now includes the statutes set by the legislature. The dates for the 2022-2023 velvet deer season are:

  • Sept. 16-18, 2022 on private land only
  • Harvested bucks must be reported by 10 p.m. on the day of harvest via the MDWFP smartphone application or MDWFP web portal.
  • All bucks must be submitted for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) sampling at a CWD drop-off freezer or at an MDWFP-participating taxidermist within five days of harvest. These locations are available at www.mdwfp.com/cwd.
  • Bag limit is one legal buck, for the respective unit, which counts toward the annual bag limit.
  • The cost for the permit is $10 for residents and $50 for non-residents.

Hunters who are unaccustomed to harvesting a deer with velvet or during warm weather conditions should prepare adequately before the hunt. Topics to consider beforehand include insect protection for the hunter, a plan to quickly cool the carcass of the deer after harvest (field dressing and ice), and protection and preservation of the antler velvet. This might mean buying ice or turning on the cooler before you head to the field.

Velvet preservation takes action. Left uncured, the velvet will rot and fall of the antler. There is an internet full of techniques for preserving antlers, most requiring the use of specialized chemicals. These range from powders to solutions that you can inject into the velvet or submerge the antlers into. Other options include having the velvet freeze-dried or having an artificial velvet put on the antlers. European or skull mounts are difficult to create with bucks in velvet because the boiling process damages the velvet near the base of the antlers. Be aware that trying a home-remedy to save a buck may end up causing you to lose it.

Note from FDA

The Food and Drug Administration recommends not keeping raw meat at room temperature for more than two hours. This time is reduced to one hour if the temperature is above 90 degrees. This is important considering that the average high temperature for Mississippi is 86 degrees in September. Have a plan to cool the meat quickly and to protect it from insects. Plan ahead by learning to field dress a deer and by having a cooler full of ice ready at the end of the hunt to place inside the carcass.

Notes from Taxidermists

Extra care should be taken to preserve the fragile velvet covering the antlers. Hunters may purchase materials to preserve the velvet on the antlers, but taxidermists will already have these chemicals on hand and will know the best process depending on the buck’s current stage of velvet. Taxidermists stress that the key is getting the antlers cooled quickly, either refrigerated or frozen. Do not wait until the next day to start cooling the antlers. These instructions came from a few of the many taxidermists that participate with MDWFP to collect CWD samples for hunters across the state.

William T. McKinley is the Deer Program Coordinator for MDWFP. Kamen Campbell is a Private Lands Biologist for MDWFP.