DMAP's Success in Mississippi
The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) has been one of the most successful ventures affecting deer management in Mississippi. The DMAP's wide spread success has been credited to program design that directly involves the sportsman in the collection of harvest data and ultimately in the management of "their" deer herd.
Since the DMAP's implementation as a research pilot program in Kemper and Noxubee counties in 1976, changes have occurred in the number of cooperators and acreage in the program. As we briefly examine the history of the DMAP, several factors that have influenced participation can be explained.
The DMAP became available as a statewide program in approximately 1985. About 430 cooperators who hunted on approximately 1.3 million acres, were active participants in the DMAP at that time. From 1985, total cooperators and their corresponding acreage grew exponentially until peaking in 1994 at close to 1,200 cooperators on 2.8 million acres. Since 1994, total cooperators have stabilized at approximately 650 properties on 1.7 million acres.
Explanations for the rapid growth of the DMAP until 1994, and the ensuing decline thereafter, seem to be related to antlerless hunting opportunity. During the late 1980's, and into the early 1990's, liberal statewide antlerless opportunity was only available if a property was enrolled in the DMAP.
Cooperator responsibility within the DMAP is a burden for some and yet quite easy for others. Data collection methods are standardized and mandatory. Extracting a jawbone, obtaining accurate weights, taking antler measurements on bucks, and collecting lactation data on does can be an intensive process for some hunting clubs/landowners. Therefore, the responsibility from cooperators who were only interested in the DMAP as a means to obtain antlerless permits waned as less burdensome methods became available to harvest antlerless deer.
The Fee Management Assistance Program (FMAP) was the first statewide program implemented after the DMAP that seems to have reduced total DMAP cooperators. The FMAP allowed landowners and hunting clubs who had sole hunting rights on their hunting property to purchase antlerless permits at $10 each for use at any time during the deer season. The FMAP provided the first statewide hunting opportunity with no requirements for biological data collection. This was an attractive alternative to some DMAP cooperators. As a result, a decline in DMAP cooperators and corresponding acreage was observed.
An aggressive program to provide statewide antlerless hunting opportunity during the entire deer season was initiated in the early 1990's. This program began with opportunity in the still hunting season, added the first gun season in the second year, and was fully implemented in a majority of the state at the end of year three. No requirements were placed on landowners or hunting clubs to harvest antlerless deer during these periods. As in the FMAP, an increasing number of DMAP cooperators who were only interested in the DMAP as a means of acquiring antlerless permits, discontinued participation in the DMAP.
Today, the DMAP functions as it was intended. The cooperators which remain on the DMAP are, as a rule, genuinely interested in deer management. The DMAP has actually benefited from the decline in cooperators. MDWFP biologists were overwhelmed during the peak years of DMAP participation. Currently, most biologists are able to devote the necessary time to provide quality management information to DMAP cooperators.