Readers react to considered changes for 2024 turkey season

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, March 28, 2023

JACKSON — Spring Turkey season opened 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 in February. 

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. 

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. 

Two people responded with feedback to his recommendations by emailing The Daily Leader. 

Billy Stokes wrote “I think Mississippi should adopt Missouri’s turkey season plan. Three weeks with 2 birds and stop hunting at 1 o’clock , or even 4 weeks opening April 1st thru May 1st with a 2 bird limit and stop hunting at 1 o’clock.” 

Butler explained a 2 bird limit would add just 11 birds to the population over a decade in the average county based on data in a simulation study. No afternoon hunting had the same effect. He explained even shortening the season by two weeks with a two bird bag limit would only add 29 birds over the next decade to the average county. 

In contrast, MDWFP eliminating the fall hunting season, where hens can be harvested legally, would add 314 birds to the average county population over the next 10 years. 

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. 

Butler also recommended the state move to using a turkey stamp in addition to requiring the tagging of turkeys. Stamps would allow the state to prioritize wild turkey management needs and increase capacity to address turkey needs that matter. They also fund the tagging system. 

Richard Odom wrote he supported helping turkey populations but did not support a turkey stamp. 

“The tagging system is ok with me also but not if it’s going to cost me more money by buying a turkey stamp,” Odom said. “I don’t understand the changing of the dates if it’s not going to help the population either. The cost of living is going up everywhere you turn these days, guess MDWFP wants their extra money as well.”

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