That moment when a mature tom turkey commits to a hunter’s spring trap, coming to the gun displaying his splendid courting passion — fully strutted, glowing red head, with thunderous gobbling and drumming — is as exciting as hunting gets.

“Nothing gets my blood pumping like that, nothing,” said longtime turkey hunter and former guide Keith Partridge of Byram. “I’ve been chasing these things for a long time and it still drives me up a wall every time I get to mix it up with a gobbler who is willing to play the game the least little bit. It doesn’t always mean I win, but just to have one gobble at me, come to check me out and strut and drum and spit and kick dirt … man that’s it. That’s it right there.”

Mississippi’s 2016 spring season is now less than a month away, opening March 8 for children under the age of 16 and on March 15 for everybody else. 

While biologists for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks have not issued a season forecast, a look at their 2015 Turkey Report indicates it should be at least fair in most areas of the state and far better than the 2015 season.

Last spring was tough for many hunters due to the poor hatch of 2013. The activity of any season is primarily based on the hatch two years earlier, since it is the 2-year-old gobbler that is considered the easiest to fool. The 2014 hatch was improved from a dismal 2013 in all five of the state’s turkey regions — Northeast, Delta, East Central, Southwest and Southwest.

MDWFP turkey program coordinator and biologist Adam Butler said the jake (juvenile gobblers) observation numbers from 2015 were up statewide.

“We had pretty solid jake numbers reported by hunters statewide last year, and that’s a very positive sign as it relates to the coming season,” Butler said. “Even in the Delta there was a good, solid, 2014 hatch, and they had a good one in 2012, too, which helps offset those flood years when the hatches were poor. 

“They should have a good number of both 2-year and 4-year olds to hunt, but it’s impossible to tell how the winter flooding we’ve had in the Delta will impact the season. It displaced the birds during the high water along the (Mississippi River) and we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

The improved 2014 hatch combined with an outstanding hatch in 2012 and the woods should be full of both whimsical 2-year olds and battle-hardened 4-year-old veterans.

“I got two camps where I hunt turkey, and we’ve had birds both the last two seasons,” said George Williams of Brandon, who hunts in his native Rankin County as well as one in Choctaw and Webster counties. “We had a heck of a hatch in 2012 and those birds carried us in both places for two seasons. We still have a lot of those gobblers.

“Last year, we saw a lot of jakes (juvenile males) from the 2014 hatch, especially at my camp in the north central part of the state, and during deer season I was continually watching flocks with a lot of long beards. I can’t wait; it should be a good season.”

Turkey seasons, limits

Youth season: March 8-14, only children 15 and under are allowed to harvest gobblers.

Main season: March 15-May 1.

Limit: One gobbler per day, three per spring season. 

Legal gobblers: Children 15 and under are allowed to harvest gobblers of any age. For adults (hunters over the age of 16), legal gobblers are described as possessing at least one of the following characteristics: has an unbroken, rounded contour to the other perimeter of its tail feathers; spurs at least half an inch in length; a beard at least six inches long; or, the 9th and 10th primary wing feathers have white barring extending to the outer tips.