Hunting & Recreation on National Forests
The National Forests in Mississippi provide over 1 million acres of land available to the public for hunting. A variety of game is hunted each year on the National Forests in Mississippi. White-tailed deer, wild turkey, quail, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, waterfowl, and more can be found in the forest.
The Forest Service shares responsibility for managing wildlife resources on national forest land with the MDWFP. This agency is responsible for regulating hunting seasons and enforcing game laws. The Forest Service, mainly through timber harvest, contributes to improved habitat conditions that benefit wildlife populations on the Forest.
Do I need a permit to hunt on national forest land?
The requirements for hunting on national forest land in Mississippi include having a valid hunting license and following all rules and regulations set forth by the MDWFP.
Residents and Non-Residents that hunt, fish, or trap on Wildlife Management Areas on national forest land must purchase a Wildlife Management Area User Permit in addition to any required hunting/fishing license.
May I hunt anywhere on national forest land?
Most of the general forest area is open to hunting, but designated recreation areas and administrative sites are not. In addition, the Impact Closure Area of Camp Shelby on the DeSoto National Forest is closed to all public use. The area may be identified by signs that read “Danger, Military Firing Range, Unexploded Ordinance, DO NOT ENTER.” Fourteen wildlife management areas are located on the National Forests in Mississippi that have special seasons and hunting regulations. These wildlife management areas are Bienville, Caney Creek, Caston Creek, Chickasaw, Chickasawhay, Choctaw, Leaf River, Little Biloxi, Mason Creek, Red Creek, Sandy Creek, Sunflower, Tallahala, and Upper Sardis. Be sure to review the regulations for hunting in these areas. All wildlife management area boundaries are posted with yellow signs. Check with the district offices for more information.
It is important to stay at least 150 yards from trails, roads, recreation areas, buildings, and residences. Pay close attention to the boundaries; what you may think is national forest land could be private. National forest land is marked with yellow signs in black print. These signs are posted along the boundaries.
Even though you may be within the national forest proclamation boundary, there are pockets of private land within that boundary. Abide by posted “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs. Permission from private property owners must be obtained prior to hunting.
You may purchase forest maps, available at district offices or at the Supervisor’s Office in Jackson, MS.
The hunting seasons set by the MDWFP for private land are the same for Mississippi’s national forest land, except for special regulations which govern wildlife management areas, antlerless deer harvest, and youth hunting seasons.
Off-Road Vehicles/ATV and Game Retrieval
ORVs/ATVs are allowed on designated roads or trails, and only for the retrieval of harvested deer or hogs without a weapon on all Forest Service-owned WMAs. On Sunflower WMA (Delta National Forest), anyone operating ORVs/ATVs should have a permit. Anyone operating ORVs/ATVs should be familiar with the Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) published annually by the U.S. Forest Service. The MVUM explains when and where ORVs/ATVs may be used. MVUMs are available at the local Forest Service office and online at www.fs.usda.gov/main/mississippi/maps-pubs.
Tree Stands and Blinds
Tree stands and blinds may be used on national forest land, but they must be portable and cannot be of a type that will deface or harm trees. Since national forest lands are open to public hunting, hunters cannot maintain exclusive rights to a hunting area. Wildlife Management Areas located on national forest land have specific regulations pertaining to tree stands and blinds. Please refer to MDWFP WMA Basic Rules for these regulations.
Physically Challenged Hunter Access
The Forest Service provides Universal Access to all persons and does not discriminate against able and unable bodied persons. Therefore, no lands are set aside for sole use by handicapped hunters.
Baiting and hunting over baited areas to attract wildlife is not allowed on national forest lands. No food plots may be placed on national forest land except by official personnel.
Developed recreation areas offer conveniences such as showers, restrooms and picnic facilities. Primitive camping is allowed except in designated scenic areas or where otherwise prohibited. During hunting season, camping is permitted only in designated hunter camps in Sunflower WMA (Delta National Forest), and Choctaw and Chickasaw WMAs (Tombigbee National Forest). Camping in the national forests is limited to 14 days during a 30-day time period. Camps may not be left unattended for a period no longer than twenty-four (24) hours. Contact ranger offices for more information on camp locations.
How to Recognize National Forest Land
The land shown in green on the maps indicates national forest land.
Red paint and signs mark the boundaries between national forest land and private property. Recognition of these markings and boundary signs helps the visitor to be certain to stay on national forest land.
Visitors should comply with state law and the owner’s rules when entering private land.
Entrance (portal) signs can be seen along major roads entering the national forests, usually on the first tract of government land encountered. Generally, portal signs are not used on low traffic roads.
Welcome signs are located on or just inside the boundaries or individual tracts of national forest land where the road enters. The sign will be oriented so that the land behind the sign is public land. Generally, they are not used on dead-end or woods roads or on small blocks of public land.
Upon entering woods on public land, welcome signs will not be present and the visitor should rely on property line markings and boundary signs.
The boundaries of individual national forest tracts adjacent to other ownerships are marked with brown and yellow property boundary signs.
The small metal boundary signs are fastened either to trees or posts located on the boundary line and at road crossings, and the signs are placed so that public land is behind the sign. Red paint spots on trees define the boundary line through woods.
While the majority of boundaries are identified and posted, occasionally visitors may encounter an area where signs have been vandalized or lines are not marked. In these cases, visitors should be alert to avoid accidentally trespassing on private land.
Know the Rules
The regulations for legal species, weapons, season dates and bag limits are issued by the MDWFP. The rules in this guide are general in scope. More detailed, local rules and regulations may be obtained from the district ranger’s office.