Turkey hunters can play an active role in providing information that helps determine future management of the wild turkey in Mississippi. I mean, do you ever wonder where all the annual turkey hunting results information and data comes from each season?

Well, it comes from turkey hunters. 

Through hunters volunteering to submit information on the yearly Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks is able to track hunting successes and valuable observational data from each of the five turkey regions in the state.

“Initiated back in 1996 the Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey overall idea was to create a way to obtain critical information to build a long-term database to assist the MDWFP,” the agency’s Turkey Program Coordinator Dave Godwin said. “The information they wanted to collect would help them keep track and manage the state’s turkey population.

“The data submitted by actual hunters in the field would provide valuable insights into the dynamics of turkey behavior during the season.”

What better way to collect data on the wild turkey than have hunters who are actually hunting on a daily basis throughout the entire season to report it?

The survey asks hunters to submit information not only on the gobblers they harvested, but also observational and listening data on the number of gobblers seen and heard. 

Hunters’ information is compiled based on segments of 10 hours of hunting.

Harvest data is reported per 100 hours of hunting.

These gauges balance the data across the state with the same reporting requirements. That way everything is standardized so state turkey managers and hunters alike can easily interpret the data as it is reported a year later in the annual Mississippi Wild Turkey Report.

Hunters completing the annual survey from all across the state report the number of gobbles they have heard on each hunt, as well as an estimation of the number of gobblers making the calls. This gives managers an idea of the number of active gobblers in each area of the state by turkey region. 

The data is also used to compile the number of gobbles and gobblers heard per 10 hours for each week of the seven week long hunting season. This offers an idea of when peak gobbling was going on in each region of the state. It definitely varies by region and it could be very important for hunters to know when the most active gobbling weeks are in the areas where they hunt or plan to hunt each season. 

“Turkey observations are a big part of this survey data report, too. It is important to know how many of what kinds of turkeys those hunters are seeing afield. Of particular value is the number of jakes or “yearling” gobblers being seen each season. Young turkeys with beards less than six inches long are the future of turkey hunting. Having an idea of how many jakes are being seen is a good piece of information for state turkey managers to have. This helps make annual predictions and forecasts,” says Godwin. 

Though it may not be an accurate statement from a realistic point of view considering we are discussing wildlife here, but the number of jakes observed could also be a sign of the successful hatch from the previous year and how many poults survived into Jake hood. It’s just a thought.

Benefits of survey participation

For the individual hunter, becoming a member of the Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey Team means a lot of positive benefits. First off, hunters will be able to see the compiled data that they contributed to at the end of the previous season. The annual report will be available online at www.mdwfp.com as the data compilation is completed, and summarized. 

Next survey participant hunters will receive an individualized report on the specific data they submitted just for themselves. Hunters will be able to track trends in their own hunting efforts. They will also have access to special reports and turkey hunting and management topics highlighted throughout the year. 

Survey hunter names are also entered into a special shotgun raffle. The idea here is simply to grow the number of turkey hunters that are willing to participate in the program. There are other benefits to participation, too, that can be read on line.

How to join the team

It is easy to sign up to participate in the annual Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey and it is no cost to you. Simply fill out the application online at www.mdwfp.com/turkey. You will be sent a packet of information including a survey booklet where you record your daily hunt information. 

Nearing the end of the season you will be sent a reminder letter on where to return the survey booklet. It is as easy at that and only takes a few minutes. Please help out the state’s wild turkey program by joining the team to complete the Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey. I think you’ll gain a measure of pride in participating, plus the information you will get summarizing your own hunts is certainly worth the effort alone.