March is breakout month for Mississippi sportsmen

(Picture by Rick Small)

Turkeys, great fishing marks first day of spring

March mornings are God’s gift to a Mississippi sportsman. Consider this, from the woodlands:

  • It’s a cool dawn, with the sun just starting to give the night sky a little glow in the east, meaning your walk down the trail through the forest needs more pace if you are to reach your listening point before daylight. A light breeze hits your face, reminding you that winter still has a few days remaining, and you shiver once, maybe twice. You start to hear a few chirps from the songbirds as they, too, see the lightening heavens. Suddenly, from deep in the trees, you hear an owl start a cadence of hoots. You stop and wait for it, and it comes: Gobble! The hunt begins.

Or, this from the water:

  • The blue sky is transforming rapidly into an artist’s canvas, full of orange hues. The steady hum of the outboard is soothing, though it isn’t helping you fight off the sleep that only an hour ago held you in its joyous clutches. At 30 miles per hour, the chill of the morning is intensified, and it is reason enough to appreciate how well your $30 metallic, insulated cup keeps your coffee warm. It’s the first thing you reach for when the run ends and you begin sliding through the stumps and timber along a creek channel. The second thing you grab is your jig pole; it’s ready to go to work. You drop the jig down around the roots of an old cypress, dancing it around, hoping there’s a crappie hungry enough to inhale the pink and chartreuse lure, and it does. Thump! Oh yeah, it’s on.

We could substitute a bass-fishing scene in any Mississippi lake, or a redfish exploding on a bait in the marshes of the Gulf and produce the same message.

March in Mississippi is simply magical.

So what if deer season is over and the guns are cleaned and safely stored, or that the retrievers that for two months eagerly dove into frigid waters to fetch your ducks, and the feists and curs that treed your squirrels for hours on end, are now just lap dogs beside you on the couch — or that the beagle packs that chased rabbits through hell and back are sleeping in their pens.

It’s March, and there’s much to do, so many memories to make.

“The perfect Mississippi morning is hitting the turkey woods at daylight and following that up with a fishing pole later in the morning,” said Joe Watts of Canton, who’s been doing that for more than 45 years. “A good day is at least getting one gobbler to play the game, whether you kill it or not, and then getting your line stretched a bunch of times in the shallows of Barnett Reservoir. March is our first chance to do that.”

Watts introduced me to one of my great pleasures in life, catching hybrid-striped and striped bass on the reservoir; our first trip is a hall-of-fame memory. It followed a morning dance with an elusive gobbler that escaped after an hour’s worth of steady gobbling at his camp along the Pearl River.

We had my boat hooked up at the camp, and we raced to the river to relieve our frustrations. Two hours and two limits of 7-pound hybrids later, with about 60 more released to boot, we had our relief.

That’s when March tossed us a treat. A turkey, very close to the river near our fishing spot — and on public property — gobbled out of the blue at 11 a.m. At 11:03, a second gobble erupted, noticeably louder and closer.

We still had on our camo, and I reminded my partner that my shotgun was in the rod box, still loaded with copper-coated 5s.

(Picture by Dan Kibler)

What happened next was truly remarkable and made that morning one we’d never forget. We had just enough time to troll over to the bank, scramble up and dive next to a tree. I was still catching my breath when Watts scratched a light yelp out of his box call. The gobbler responded with a gobble that shook us to our souls. He was right on top of us, figuratively, but literally just below us in a little oak bottom. Watts enticed him to come take a peek over the edge of the ridge, and that’s where he was greeted by a tight wad of No. 5s.

It was a wonderful morning, ending in a friendship that has produced hundreds more memories usually tied to a hunting or fishing trip.


Mississippi Turkey Seasons

Youth season

March 8-14, statewide. Only hunters ages 15 and under are allowed to harvest turkeys.

Regular season

March 15-May 1, statewide.

Limit

One 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 one gobbler of choice (any age) per day, 3 per spring season.


Other seasons

March does provide marginal hunting opportunities in addition to turkey season.

  • The statewide season on bobwhite quail ends on March 6.
  • Trapping season remains open through March 15 statewide.
  • The Conservation Order season on light geese, which opened after the regular waterfowl seasons ended, remains open through March 31. It requires a special free permit from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks before hunting. There is no limit on snow, blue or Ross’ geese during this season.

To participate in the Light Goose Conservation Order season, hunters need a valid Mississippi hunting license, a state waterfowl stamp and a free Light Goose Conservation Order permit number. Hunters can obtain a permit number by visiting mdwfp.com/waterfowl.

Under the Conservation Order, shooting hours are from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Only snow, blue, and Ross’ geese are eligible for harvest. The use of electronic calls is allowed. The use of unplugged shotguns is allowed.

Hunters must use non-toxic shot and must possess a valid Mississippi hunting license and a Mississippi state waterfowl stamp. Hunters do not need a federal waterfowl stamp.

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Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1331 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.

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