Amite County hunters speak against fall season

Published 8:39 am Sunday, March 24, 2024

MCCOMB — A group of about 10 turkey hunters publicly opposed the reinstatement of Mississippi’s fall turkey season Thursday. Several of those hunters made public comments before the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission at Percy Quin State Park. 

One man pleaded for the commission to not let the fall turkey hunting tradition die in Mississippi. He was the lone voice crying out for the reinstatement of fall turkey hunting Thursday. 

Wayne Smith, a turkey hunter, stepped up to the podium and said he never understood the fall season in the first place. Southwest Mississippi had three bad hatches in the early 2000s and the fall season followed soon after. He stated the area is just now getting turkeys back. MDWFP’s spring forecast pointed to strong hatches for the past two years for the region. 

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Smith served on the NWTF board and started hunting turkeys with his grandfather when he was 16. 

“We had a vote as the state chapter and it was a solid vote. I don’t remember a single individual who said they would vote in favor of a fall season. I never heard any opposition,” Smith said. “I understand there are some counties who had a fall season at one point or another. If you talk to 50 turkey hunters in this area they will tell you they do not want a fall season. We are at a point where we get turkeys back and we do not need to take one single hen or a gobbler which could be taken in the springtime with a fall season.” 

Nelsen Estes of McComb explained why the NWTF state chapter was for a closure of the fall turkey season. 

“We put our faith in data, research and science that is what tells us the best way to preserve the resource,” Estes said. “Data and research says we don’t need a fall season that is why we take that position. It may change someday. I appreciate the opportunity to speak.” 

Retired Amite County game warden Jimmy Hutson addressed the commission about the fall season. He said he was against the season when it was first opened. The area doesn’t have the turkeys it used to have and he believes people should not be able to hunt turkeys in the fall. 

“The turkeys aren’t there. I haven’t heard a bird gobble on my place in five years,” Hutson said. “Used to I could hear a mile up the road 12 to 15 birds.” 

Landon Moore said he was also against the fall season. He is an Amite County native and can remember when southwest Mississippi was loaded with turkeys. Back then, the opening day of turkey season was a challenge to pick which birds to hunt from all of the options. 

Moore said after going through a period of not having many turkeys on the landscape they have started to make a comeback. Friday made a week since his five year old son was able to kill his first turkey. 

“We have to do everything we can to preserve them,” he said. “Shorten the season, don’t have a fall season. Let’s do what we can to keep our traditions going. If it gets a kid in the woods we need to do it. I can’t get my boy in the woods if we don’t have gobbling turkeys.” 

Bentley Spears, a hunter in Amite County, said his family land had more turkeys than some counties in the early 1990s. By the 2010s, the habitat was not managed enough, no one trapped anymore and the property went from a great place to turkey hunt to terrible. 

“We have one of the best two hatches we have had in two decades. We are not ready for a fall season right now,” Spears said. “Maybe in 10 years we can have a fall season again. Right now, I don’t see southwest Mississippi needing a fall season. I can travel and hunt a lot of states. We are on a good trend here. Keep up habitat management and we will continue trending in the right direction.” 

He said one change about Mississippi is the pressure public land birds get from out of state hunters. Mississippi’s season opens earlier than most states. Spears said predator control with trapping is also needed. 

Moore puts on a predator competition each year and people trapped thousands of potential nest predators. Spears said habitat is the main thing people need to work on. 

“The woods of old is gone. You will never get timber companies to burn like they used to. We need to work on the little habitat we do have,” he said. “We can’t lose the birds.” 

Commissioner William Mounger said they would be taking everything into account to both allow for hunting opportunities while protecting the resource. 

“Some people believe if you kill birds in the fall it takes away the spring opportunity,” Mounger said. “We will be weighing those options when discussing them next month. They are timely and we appreciate them.” 

Check back Monday for a story about the new Turkey Management Assistance Program with the MDWFP.