Mississippi wing-shooters have plenty to be thankful about this long holiday weekend, with two hunting seasons set to open statewide: quail on Thursday (Nov. 24) and ducks on Friday (Nov. 25).

Quail opportunities are limited, but those who have them usually make it part of their celebration.

“Our family’s old farm in North Mississippi still has wild birds, and my brother called and said he saw several coveys while bowhunting for deer,” said Ron Stevens of Jackson, a native of Tupelo who makes the annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Lee County to be with his family — and to hunt. “We haven’t missed many years that we have a morning quail hunt before gathering for the big holiday meal.

“We set a daily family limit of 18 birds on Thanksgiving, and after that it’s 12 a day, and we’re real picky about it. We’ve worked hard to keep the birds on the property, managing the land to produce plenty of quality bird habitat. We’re proud of it, and we want to protect it for the next generation.”

Thanksgiving kills rarely make it to the Thursday menu, but Stevens said they will be cooked before the weekend is over.

“We will hunt again on Saturday, and on Sunday at lunch I suspect there will be quail on the table after church,” he said. “After that, we will hunt maybe one or two days before we go back for Christmas, and then we will have another big hunt.” 

More hunters will make use of Friday’s opening of the first duck season in Mississippi. It is the first of consecutive three-day weekends open to waterfowlers before the main season begins Dec. 7.

“I scouted this week and I’m confident we will have a decent shoot one morning, but after that I don’t know,” said Will Thornton, son-in-law to a Leflore County farmer. “I’m afraid that we might chase this first wave of ducks away when we start shooting and they won’t come back.

“My father-in-law always helps us out by planting some good grain and saving it for us in a couple of areas where he can pump some water. This year, with it being so dry, he hasn’t been able to produce but one good field. We’re going to hunt it Friday, lay off it on Saturday and see if it’s holding again by Sunday. If not, we’ll find another place.”

Thornton said most of the ducks he saw were green-winged teal and gadwalls, “but I did see a few pintails and a few mallards.”

Thanksgiving seasons

• Quail: Statewide season opens Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, and ends on March 4. The limit is 8 per person, per day.

• Ducks, mergansers and coots: The first of three statewide duck seasons opens on Friday, Nov. 25 and ends Sunday Nov. 27. Other seasons are Dec. 2-4 and Dec. 7-Jan. 29. The daily limit on ducks is 6, including no more than 4 mallards (no more than 2 of which may be females), 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 3 scaup, 2 canvasback,1 mottled duck, 1 black duck, and 2 pintails. The limit on mergansers is 5, only 2 of which may be hooded. The daily bag limit on coots is 15.