No other sound in nature speaks to the soul of a turkey hunter like the booming gobble of a Magnolia State longbeard. We hear it as an irresistible challenge that must be answered, regardless of the cost. Very few things in life, other than our jobs and family, prevent a true turkey hunter from responding to the gobble of this magnificent bird. There is something very mysterious, if not magical, about its power of attraction.
Being able to communicate in its own tongue with such a marvelous wild creature is why many of us find turkey hunting to be so addictive. Each morning we enter his domain to plead our case with the best calling we have to offer.
Sometimes he responds to our seductive pleas, but more often he will not. I am certain it is this rejection that we turkey hunters cannot accept. It is what makes us crawl out of a warm bed at an outrageous hour morning after morning.
The ultimate challenge in the turkey woods is to lure an old boss gobbler into shotgun range with the most seductive calling we can muster. The secret to bagging one of these clever old birds lies in understanding how he rules his roost. The older and more experienced the gobbler, the harder it is to end the hunt with him slung over your shoulder.
But before you can drop the hammer on a Mississippi longbeard, you must first identify the hunting areas that offer the best opportunities for success. Here is what the Magnolia Stateâ€™s turkey biologists are predicting for the 2012 Spring Turkey Season.
Turkey hunting success in the Magnolia State hinges on the number of 2-year-old birds available for harvest during the spring season. These inexperienced young gobblers tend to gobble more than their older counterparts and are much more susceptible to being harvested than a seasoned gobbler that has strutted more than a few times around the woodlot.
â€śIn most cases it is the abundance or lack of 2-year-olds that make or break our season,â€ť said Dave Godwin, Wild Turkey Program Coordinator with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.
A team of MDWFP wildlife biologists utilize numerous data sets to aid them in predicting what the turkey numbers will be during the upcoming season. Because jakes are off limits to adult hunters during Mississippiâ€™s spring turkey season, the brood survey data from two years ago and jake observations per hour from the 2011 are paramount in determining the potential success that awaits hunters in each of the stateâ€™s five turkey regions in 2012. Although carryover of older gobblers has some bearing on hunting success, it is the overall number of 2-year-old gobblers that holds the key.
Nesting conditions for much of the Magnolia State in 2010 was greatly improved over recent years. The resulting hatch should mean a significant increase in the number of 2-year-old birds that hunters encounter during the 2012 season. Therefore, the stateâ€™s biologists are anticipating that the wild turkey harvest rates during this season will be higher than they have been in the last four years.
â€śThe increase in 2010 reproduction was not only seen in the statewide averages, but also was the case in every region of the state,â€ť Godwin noted. â€śThis means that we should see an increase in the number of 2-year-old gobblers statewide this spring. And that is great news for turkey hunters across the Magnolia State.â€ť
But since there are always exceptions to any general statewide forecast, letâ€™s take a closer look at the Magnolia Stateâ€™s five turkey regions and see what each has to offer this spring.
TURKEY REGION 1
Comprised of 21 counties in north central and northeast Mississippi, this region has a fairly bleak turkey-hunting outlook for 2012. According to the 2009 brood survey, turkey reproduction in this region was the lowest on record, with 0.94 poults per hen. Unfortunately, the 2010 reproduction data didnâ€™t show much improvement.
â€śTurkey populations across northeast Mississippi have been dropping steadily for the past several years, and neither the brood survey data from 2010 nor the Spring Gobbler Hunter Survey data from last season indicate that things have turned around,â€ť said Adam Butler, MDWFP Wild Turkey Program biologist. â€śSo hunters in Region 1 should expect a 2012 season that mirrors what they have experienced for the past several years.â€ť
It is important to note that Turkey Region 1 has had a history of poor participation in the Spring Gobbler Hunter Survey, which opens the door for harvest, gobbling activity, spur length, and turkey observation data being biased as a result of limited sample sizes. However, Mississippiâ€™s turkey reproduction data is collected using the MDWFP Brood Survey, which is more accurate since it is unaffected by sample size.