As Mississippi prepares to open its first gun season of the deer hunt on Saturday, wildlife officials are urging hunters to kill as many deer as possible in attempt to stabilize the population.

“We are not even close to harvesting the limit,” Lann Wilff, deer coordinator of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, told WLOX. “We have to get more people in the woods and shooting more deer.”

The department estimates the state’s deer population between 1.75 and 2 million, up from 1.25 to 1.5 million “a few years ago,” according to WLOX.

Wilf said 30 percent of the deer population needs to harvested annually to stabilize the population, but Mississippi hunters aren’t even halfway to that number. Last year, Mississippi’s 149,046 hunters harvested 263,705 deer, which averages 1.8 deer per hunter. Wilf said the state needs to be harvesting between 600,000 to 650,000 per year.

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