Strong hatches, jake observations improve going into Mississippi’s 2024 spring turkey season

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, February 21, 2024

BROOKHAVEN — Turkey season is now three weeks away for adults and two weeks away for youth. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks released their forecast for the 2024 season based on harvest data, poult-per-hen ratios, jake observations and turkey observations over previous years. 

Mississippi as a whole has a positive outlook. For the first time in several years, Southwest Mississippi looks to be gearing towards a memorable 2024 spring season. Turkey Program Director Adam Butler wrote the forecast and stated the populations in Southwest Mississippi have trended downward over the past decade. This season could be a rebound. 

“Very strong hatches in the past two years have created a substantial turkey turn around. Based on poult per hen counts from the MDWFP brood survey, the summers of 2022 and 2023 were the best back-to-back hatches in the region since 2000 and 2001,” Butler wrote. “Unsurprisingly, jake sightings in the region shot up 53% year-over-year in 2023. With more turkeys on the landscape, and a guaranteed bumper crop of two-year-olds, the 2024 spring looks to be a memorable one for Southwest Mississippi.” 

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Looking back 20 years ago, Mississippi’s 2000 and 2001 hatch had 1.7 and 3.83 poults per hen respectively. Observations spiked in 2003 before falling off. Jake observations per 100 hours were at 11.3 in 2001 after the 2000 hatch, 25.6 in 2002 after the 2001 hatch. Gobblers harvested per 100 hours hunted were at 4.6 in 2003 and 5.8 in 2004 following those strong jake observations. 

The Daily Leader reported Southwest Mississippi had a hatch of  2.5 poults per hen in 2022. It was the best hatch in the state since 2018 with 2.7 poults per hen. 

MDWFP commissioners voted to suspend the fall turkey season indefinitely last spring to protect hens and hopefully influence populations positively. Research at MSU showed a 2 percent increase in hen survival improved populations by 2.5 times. 

Continue habitat management 

Turkey populations are complicated which is why it’s best to keep in mind the ebbs and flows of the population dynamics. Hunters should continue to manage turkey friendly habitat by maintaining openings for brooding and nesting cover. Open hardwoods and bottomland systems play a key role in the turkey’s life history and can be improved with forest stand improvement and prescribed fire. 

MDWFP offers private land visits free of charge to help managers meet their goals. Butler and Private Land Program Director John Gruchy visited a property in Lincoln County last year to show how a private land meeting works. 

Biologists are very knowledgeable and can view your property through an informative lens to help you. All one has to do is visit the Private Lands Program page on the MDWFP and request a site visit

Turkeys for Tomorrow and National Wild Turkey Federation offer a variety of educational articles for people to learn more about wild turkeys. Mississippi State Extension Service provides a comprehensive Wild Turkey Ecology and Management guide as well. People who enjoy podcasts and turkey management should listen to Wild Turkey Science. 

Youth Turkey season opens March 8th and the statewide season opens March 15 and runs until May 1st. Hunters in the spring season may harvest three male gobblers.