Turkey forecast: Good statewide

Delta seems iffy, but everywhere else looks fine

With the opening of the regular spring turkey season just around the corner, Mississippi hunters should expect a better than average season in most areas of the state.

Even biologists with the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks are saying it “looks to be a good one.”

They say their information, gathered through its 2019 annual Spring Gobbler Survey and the state’s first mandatory Game Check Harvest Report last year, indicate that statewide turkey populations have held steady or better during the last few years.

There are, however, some differences by region. Here is the agency’s 2020 regional forecast compiled by turkey coordinator Adam Butler:

South Mississippi — Improved

In 2018, nearly the entire southern half of the state posted one of its best hatches since MDWFP began its wild turkey brood survey in 1994. This corresponded with a considerable increase in jake sightings last spring, suggesting a bumper 2-year-old gobbler crop could await.

Hunters from Port Gibson to the southeast’s Piney Woods should expect to find gobblers in places that have not held them in quite some time.

East Central Mississippi — Good, again

While the 2018 hatch in central Mississippi was not record-setting, it was still solid. Regional hunter observations in 2019 also noted an uptick in juvenile gobblers. Hunters in central Mississippi should expect a season similar, or perhaps slightly better, than what they have come to enjoy the last few years. Those seasons have been good.

North Mississippi — Good, as usual

During the last decade, the northern third of Mississippi has offered incredible turkey hunting. Central portions of this region likely harbor some of the densest populations in the state. Nonetheless, this region did not experience good reproduction two summers ago, which suppressed jake sightings last year.  Hunters around north Mississippi should still be able to find more than enough birds to be happy, but do not be surprised if things are slightly off from the bounty of the past decade.

The Delta — Hard to say

The Delta season forecast is tough to gauge. Areas in the south Delta have seen their populations plummet for nearly a decade; the 2020 season should not be expected to be different. Properties further north along the margin of the Mississippi River, though, posted a good hatch in 2018. Jake sightings and other reports last year corroborated that numbers were on the upswing. A significant unknown is the impact of the 2019 record-setting flood. Adult turkeys typically survive short-duration flooding with ease, but the extent and duration of flooding were unprecedented. Early assessments suggest most populations fared well, nonetheless, the degree to which the good 2018 hatch will translate into a quality 2020 will be determined by how well standing flocks survived the 2019 flood.

Mississippi’s 2020 Spring turkey season

  • Youth season: Ends Friday for children aged 15 and under. However, all hunters can participate in the regular season.
  • Regular season: Opens Saturday, March 14, statewide. Ends May 1.
  • Limit: One mature gobbler, or a gobbler with a minimum 6-inch beard, per day, three per season. Children 15 and under can harvest one gobbler of any age per day, three per season.

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Bobby Cleveland
About Bobby Cleveland 1271 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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