2018 Deer Spotlight Survey
1/30/2019 8:48:52 AM

Spotlight surveys were conducted on Mississippi’s six National Forests in an effort to measure deer density in fall of 2018. The survey set out to monitor deer population changes after new large-scale regulations suspended antlerless deer harvests on open public lands for the 2017 and 2018 hunting seasons. Before the implementation of the regulations, antlerless harvests rates dropped significantly within MDWFP’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) that lie within Mississippi’s National Forests.

The survey was a partnership between the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, Mississippi State University (MSU), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). Spotlight counts on some of the National Forests have been done in the past, but never at this coordinated level. MSU designed routes for the spotlight survey and analyzed the data taken after the survey was complete. Spotlight counts were performed by MDWFP and USFS where deer were viewed and recorded on each of the six National Forests three times during late September and October. Along the routes, perpendicular visibility estimates were made at each 0.1 mile along each transect. The measurements of each transect were then used to estimate the total area sampled on each National Forest.



Deer Per Square Mile

Doe to Buck Ratios

Doe to Fawn Ratios



7 - 1

2.5 - 1



5 - 1

2.5 - 1

DeSoto, North


12 - 1

4.3 - 1

DeSoto, South




Holly Springs, Main Unit


3 - 1

10 - 1



5 - 1

5.3 - 1

Tombigbee, Choctaw Dist.


3 - 1

3.8 - 1

Tombigbee, Trace Dist.


6 - 1

3.7 - 1

Table 1. Density Estimates calculated from average der sighting across 3 nights. Two routes were ran on each of Mississippi’s National Forests except Delta. Data gathered from separate routes on Bienville, Holly Springs, and Homochitto were combined to due consistent data between routes.

The results of the survey found a large variation in deer densities across the National Forests in Mississippi with Homochitto National Forest having one of the highest estimated densities, and South DeSoto having one of the lowest. MDWFP’s intention is to conduct these surveys annually in order to determine continued population changes.


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