For many devoted turkey hunters, like Earl Thompson of Southaven, deer season is simply a “glorified, extended scouting season for gobblers.”
Mississippi’s spring season has two opening days: March 7 for youngsters ages 15 and under, and March 14 for all other hunters. The season will end on May 1.
Thompson enjoys hunting deer, sort of .…
“Let me put it like this: I like to go to camp and be with the gang and to take my grandsons and granddaughters to the stand to help out my sons, but honestly, I don’t care anything about shooting them anymore,” he said. “They kill all we need for the processor and the freezer. I go out there to assess the turkey. They are looking for antlers; I am looking for longbeards.
“I learn the core areas of the biggest, toughest, meanest gobblers around. I guess that’s so I can have the areas chosen to have my heart and spirit broken during the season. Those old birds, as much as I love them, I hate them even more.”
That’s a love-hate sentiment shared by most experienced and dedicated turkey hunters.
“There’s an old joke about turkey hunting involving these two old hunters walking back to the truck after an unsuccessful morning of chasing a boss gobbler,” Thompson said. “One of them sees the other suddenly stop and then stomping on the ground. He walks over and sees the guy had walked up on a hen’s nest with about eight eggs, which are now obliterated. ‘What the heck you doing?’ he asks his partner, who turns to him, shows a wry smile and answers, ‘I’m getting them before they can beat me.’
“I’m not that bad, but I can understand how he felt. Many, times I’ve gone home feeling like a whipped puppy, frustrated, with my tail between my legs. They shut me out last year. I didn’t fire a shot during Mississippi’s spring season, for the first time in … in so many years, I can’t remember when. I did kill two in Texas and another one in Kansas.”
Thompson hunts near Oxford in Lafayette and Marshall counties, so he was surprised to hear the results compiled from the 2019 season during the first mandatory harvest report or “Game Check” for turkey.
Lafayette County ranked No. 1 for reported harvest with 407 gobblers. Marshall was No. 2 with 388. Ranked No. 4 was Panola, which neighbors Lafayette to the west, with 357. Attala was No. 3 at 358, Carroll No. 5 at 342 and Copiah No. 6 at 304. No other counties reported more than 300 birds.
“Wow, I knew our population numbers were good, but I didn’t expect that,” Thompson said. “We were told that the North Central Zone was going to have a good season last year, but I had no idea we rated that highly in the state.”
As expected, due to the vast flooding, Mississippi’s South Delta had the worst season. Hardest hit was Sunflower County, the only county that didn’t have a single gobbler reported. Humpreys and Washington each had two reported, and Issaquena and Sharkey had three each.
Slightly more than half of Mississippi’s 82 counties reported at least 150 gobblers taken. Twelve percent of reported gobblers harvest were taken on public land.
The survey says….
Here are some of the interesting statistics found in the 2019 Turkey Game Check results, as published by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks:
- Opening day of the season (March 15, 2019) had the highest reported harvest at 773 birds.
- Over half of all turkeys were killed by the end of March.
- Only 3 percent of birds reported had less than a 6-inch beard; meaning 97 percent taken were mature gobblers.
- With 61 percent of gobblers reporting having spurs measuring between 1/2- and 1 inch, it appears 2-year-old birds dominated the harvest.
- Older gobblers — or birds with spurs exceeding one inch — accounted for 34 percent of those harvested.
- Only 9.7 percent of hunters reported taking a season limit of three gobblers.
- A total of 8,780 unique users reported 12,627 gobblers harvested.