Mississippi turkey hunters who had a good season last spring will enjoy the forecast for the 2018 season, but those who did not will not be so enthusiastic.
And, hunters in the Delta, well they won’t like it all.
“I expect the 2018 season, on average, to probably be a pretty close replay of the 2017 season,” said biologist Adam Butler, the wild-turkey program leader for the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
He said Mississippi hunters harvested an estimated 27,500 gobblers last spring.
“The 2016 brood survey yielded very similar results as the 2015 survey, so the size of the 2-year-old cohort this year should be pretty similar to last year,” said Butler, noting that it is the more gullible young gobblers that are the easiest to fool with a call. “Also, statewide jake observations from the (2017) Spring Gobbler Hunting Survey have been pretty similar for the last three springs.”
The forecast varies through the five regions used by the MDWFP. Here is his regional breakdown for 2018:
“Similar, though maybe down slightly from last year. The Northeast was last year’s hot spot and had the Spring Gobbler Survey’s highest harvest per time spent hunting — 3.7 gobblers harvested per 100 hours hunted. Post-season gobbler carryover seemed strong, and 2016 brood survey results along with 2017 jake observations all suggest very good hunting in the Northeast for 2018.”
“This region will likely be this year’s hot spot. Based on the 2016 hatch, and 2017 jake observations, I expect a big 2-year-old crop in Central Mississippi.”
“Not good at all. The flood patterns over the last decade have been terrible for the Delta; the last good hatch was 2014, and those birds have probably mostly played out. The hatches since then have not been sufficient to increase or even maintain populations.”
“Southwest should offer slightly better hunting than last year — not necessarily a stellar season by Southwest standards, but still pretty solid. Gobbler carryover from 2017 appeared well above-average for the region, so hunters should encounter a higher proportion of older birds. This may mean there will be plenty of gobbler interactions, but harvests may be fewer since older birds are stubborn.”
“It’ll be pretty similar to last year, which means tough hunting. Recent reproduction hasn’t been sufficient to boost numbers to what hunters remember 10 to 15 years ago. The good news is that parts of the region appeared to have had a decent hatch, so there may be light at the end of the tunnel.”
Mississippi Spring Turkey season
Youth only: March 8-March 14. Only hunters aged 15 and under can shoot gobblers, but licensed (or exempt) adults can participate in all other phases of the hunt.
Regular: March 15-May 1.
Limits: One (1) adult gobbler or one gobbler with a 6-inch or longer beard per day, 3 per spring season. Hunters 15 years of age and younger may harvest 1 gobbler of choice (any age, beard length) per day, 3 per spring season.