Changes to turkey season might come in 2024

Published 8:28 am Monday, March 20, 2023

JACKSON — Spring Turkey season opened Wednesday on March 15 as it has for the last decade but the early start may come to an end. Turkey Program Director Adam Butler presented a series of recommendations in an educational session with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks commission last month. 

Among his recommendations included a mandatory tagging system, requiring purchase of a turkey stamp and closing the fall season. He also brought forth a proposal to shorten the turkey hunting season by as little as two days to eight days. 

Within the last five years, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina have all tweaked their spring turkey seasons. Butler’s recommendation to shorten the season would place Mississippi on the list. His proposal is to return to the pre-2005 season framework of starting on the Saturday closest to March 20. 

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“Turkey populations go up and down regardless of what you do,” Butler said. “Changing different things about the spring does nothing. Right now, it takes longer to kill birds that first week because the birds aren’t gobbling or cooperating. Waiting a week would have better harvest rates and hunter experiences.” 

Butler added it would eliminate confusion on when opening day is while also aligning youth season with spring break on the week of March 15. The primary goal with the season change is to give hunters a better opportunity to harvest birds during higher gobbling activity. 

It is important to note these recommendations will not be official recommendations until April 2023’s commission meeting. Butler said they are talking about the recommendations now to open the door for communication prior to the April commission meeting. No official action has been taken yet. 

His recommendation has little to do with helping the turkey population. Models show little change in the long term turkey population if you drop the bag limit to one turkey or shorten the season to just a month. Mississippi should retain the three bird bag limit and instead focus efforts in areas to help the population, Butler recommended. 

Even with a different spring season framework, Mississippi would still have the longest turkey season in the south. March 23rd would be the latest the season would start and March 17 would be the earliest the season could start under the recommendation. 

Let us know what you think about the proposed season dates change by emailing