Pollen covers virtually everything you can see, and a large portion of the state is gearing up for potential tornadoes. I think we can finally say that spring has arrived in Mississippi. By now, I’m hoping that most of you have bagged your first bird of the season. Judging by what I’m seeing on social media, it seems like a good start to the year. I’ve also seen plenty of big bass being caught, lately. With cold weather hopefully behind us, this is truly a special time of the year for outdoorsmen.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve had more than a few different conversations surrounding turkey hunting in our state. Obviously, I’m no expert on the matter so I’ve spent more time listening to those that are, rather than talking. Almost each conversation has included some kind of concern on the population of turkeys in Mississippi. I’ve mentioned before of ways that we could make our state a better destination state for deer hunting. With turkeys, it kind of already is…or has been. Folks come from all over to hunt turkeys in Mississippi, which is a good thing. But, how do we keep Mississippi a turkey hunting destination?
First things first, we have to do a better job of collecting data. We need to know how many turkey hunters we have, as well as how many birds are killed. For now, hunters are supposed to report any harvested bird through the MDWFP app, or by paper copy of the harvest record. Those harvest reports must be filled out by 10:00 pm on the day that the harvest occurs. Tip: check in your bird before posting a picture of it on social media to avoid a ticket, as well as avoid being the next “Idiot of the Week” on the Pinstripes to Camo Podcast.
As for knowing the number of actual turkey hunters that we have in the woods, as of now we do not have a system. A Mississippi Sportsman’s License covers a wide variety of hunting opportunities, thus not giving us a true number of how many folks are in the woods during the spring season. A recent suggestion from Preston Pittman was to have a “turkey stamp”. Similar to federal duck stamps, the turkey stamp would give us a good idea of just how many turkey hunters we have in Mississippi.
If you’re like me, the first thing you just thought of was “Oh, great! Another way to milk money from hunters.” Let’s put those thoughts aside for a moment. Just spit balling here, but maybe we could reduce the overall cost of a Sportsman’s License by adding the turkey stamps. Not that the government has ever reduced the cost of much of anything once they figured out we’d pay for it, but this could potentially be a way to do that, and get a number of turkey hunters at the same time. The more likely scenario is that turkey stamps would cost you a few extra bucks added to your Sportsman’s License. In the end, the data provided is probably worth a couple of extra dollars.
Another idea that was brought up to me was reducing the number of birds you can harvest from three to two. This is another idea that will probably make you boil over. It’s not one that I’m fond of, either. As a rebuttal to this idea, it was brought up that how many people actually kill three gobblers in a season. I’m not nearly into the turkey community as much as I am the deer hunting community, but I can count on one hand of how many people I know that kill their allotment of turkeys each year. Again, knowing how many turkey hunters we have in the woods would provide a better argument either for, or against, reducing the number of birds we can harvest.
One more thing we’ve talked about is the season itself. Does our season start and finish too early? Are we a little late? Or, are we right on time? Personally, I don’t think you can judge this one based off of one or two years of data. This is a question that would have to be studied over a longer length of time. I’ve heard of gobbling birds as early as Valentine’s Day, and I’ve heard of birds gobbling toward the end of May. To me, it’s almost like judging the rut during deer season. Sometimes it’s a week or two early and sometimes the season is darn near over before you see a buck chasing. For now, until there is more data (which the NWTF and Turkeys for Tomorrow are constantly working on) there is no need to change the dates of the season.
Speaking of deer hunting, it’s been brought to my attention the possibility of an early archery season in Mississippi. From what I’ve read, archery hunters in Mississippi could potentially get a three day season in September to hunt whitetail deer. My initial thought of this was it’s hot enough in October to cook eggs on the sidewalk, so I can’t imagine how miserable it would be in late September. But then I thought of having the opportunity to stick a buck in full velvet, something I’ve never been able to do. That being said, it seems like a pretty cool idea to me…even if you risk getting West Nile doing it.
Birds gobble all year. The season is supposed to be based on when hens start breeding. You don’t want to start before they are breeding. You could potentially keep a whole lot of birds from breeding. 4/1-5/1, 2 bird limit, stamp required as well as physically tagging and e-tagging. That’s how I’d prefer it and I’m an avid turkey hunter.