Special Report: Mississippi Deer Population

Mississippi has the second highest deer population of any state in the nation, behind only Texas. And if you don't think that's a problem spend a little time driving on the roads at night during the winter.

It's a big issue, and one that may be getting worse instead of better.

"This deer would probably not be a trophy, but it's so unique. It's got six on one side and two on the other," said avid deer hunter Brandel Russell.

If there's such a thing as an amateur deer expert, Russell would probably qualify. He spends three or four days a week, every week during hunting season, in the woods. He also tapes all of his hunts.

Russell's hunting cabin is full of trophy deer. Hunting is his life during this time of year.

"I grew up hunting. It's a family tradition. I really like it," Russell said

Russell bagged his limit well before hunting season ended this year. And he had a couple of big bucks, a ten and a twelve point.

Yes, Russell eats, sleeps, and breathes deer, so when he says the deer population is growing, you take notice. And he certainly believes that to be the case.

"I can remember as a kid going a week or two without seeing deer," said Russell. "If you did, it was a doe or little one or something. Now it's common; every time you go you're going to see something."

The numbers seem to back up his anecdotal evidence. Official estimates put the state's deer population at about 1.75 million. That's almost double the population in Alabama and Tennessee, which each have about a million white tail deer. And the numbers are likely growing.

Deer hunting experts say about 400,000 deer per year need to be killed to keep the population under control. With hunting and accidental deaths, officials estimate a little more than 350,000 deer a year are killed statewide.

"Since the 1980s, the number of hunters has gone down and there's more deer, so it's kind of a snowball effect. More deer, less hunters," said Ron James of Lauderdale County Farm Supply.

That means more deer for Brandel Russell, but it also means more problems for everyone else.

The only time most of us encounter a deer is when we see them in our headlights. Many times, that is far too late.

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