Mississippi Turkey Hunting Forecast for 2014

Mississippi Turkey Hunting Forecast for 2014
Bruce Layne shot this 18 pound 8 inch beard turkey Christmas eve.

There's plenty to go around when it comes to Mississippi turkey hunting.  According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, 2012's hatch was very good, and turkey populations around the state are on the upswing.


History shows, however, that many factors can have a detrimental effect on turkey populations, and a couple of very wet springs or a massive hurricane coming ashore during the nesting period can have a dramatic effect on the year's hatch.



HEVI-Shot HEVI-Metal Turkey

If speed equals downrange killing power, then HEVI-Metal turkey loads will make any hunter a turkey killin'™ fool. HEVI-Shot trades slightly lighter loads in their 3 ½-inch 12-gauge shells for extra speed, but if you can'™t kill a turkey with 1 ½ ounces of #4 or 6 shot, then maybe you should take up golf.

Traveling at a whopping 1,450 fps, the increased velocity allows you to stretch your shots a few extra yards and put a tag on that hung-up gobbler. The 3-inch 12-gauge shells have the same velocity with 1 ¼ ounces of shot. Loads are also available in 20-gauge.

Price: $11 per box of 5

Check out all the hottest new turkey shotguns for 2014.

HEVI-Shot Magnum Blend Turkey Loads

Can'™t decide on #5, 6 or 7 shot? HEVI-Shot'™s Magnum Blends make that decision for you. You get all three in a single shell. The patented Pattern Density Technology gives you the opportunity to kill birds at greater distances while giving you complete confidence to drop a gobbler with a single shot up close.


Three-inch 12-gauge shells carry 2 ounces of shot. Loads are also available in 20-gauge. Magnum Blends aren'™t cheap, but when you'™ve got a gobbler closing the distance, are you really thinking about a few extra bucks?

Price: $25 per box of 5

Check out all the hottest new turkey shotguns for 2014.

Hornady Heavy Magnum Turkey

Hornady'™s reputation as a bullet manufacturer is second to none. The company'™s relatively new line of shotgun shells fits right in with their high standards of quality and effectiveness. The Heavy Magnum Turkey loads incorporate Hornady'™s patented VersaTite wad, which maintains a tight, short shot string at farther ranges.

Loaded with 1 ½ ounces of nickel-plated 4, 5, or 6 shot, the 3-inch 12-gauge loads have a muzzle velocity of 1,300 fps; the new 20-gauge loads travel at 1,200 fps and are packed with 1 3/8-ounce of #5 shot.


Price: $10.71 per box of 10

Check out all the hottest new turkey shotguns for 2014.

Kent Diamond Shot

Speed or pellet count? It'™s a debate as old as turkey shotshells. Kent Cartridge ends that debate by giving hunters the freedom to choose a faster load or a heavier one. Ultimate Diamond Shot lead turkey loads are available in 3 or 3 ½-inch 12-gauge loads packed with #4, 5 or 6 shot.

Here'™s the kicker. You can select a 2-ounce load that travels at 1,300 fps or a 2 ¼-ounce load that moves at 1,200 fps in the 3 ½-inch shell. The 3-inch options are similar, except both 3-inch shells carry a little less shot. However, the speed difference is greater. The lighter load travels at 1,325 fps; the heavier load sails out your barrel at 1,175 fps.

Price: $10 per box of 10

Check out all the hottest new turkey shotguns for 2014.

Kent Five Star Penetrator

A 50/50 blend of Tungsten Matrix and Diamond Shot, the Kent Five Star Penetrator gives hunters a one-two punch that drops gobblers in their tracks. Both shot types are #5 pellets, a favorite shot size among turkey hunters everywhere and an effective size for a variety of distances.

The blend results in dense downrange patterns and short shot strings for maximum killing power. Available in 3 ½ and 3-inch 12-gauge, both loads are packed with two types of #5 shot. The longer shell has a muzzle velocity of 1,325 fps; the3-inch load travels at 1,200 fps.

Price: $30 per box of 10

Check out all the hottest new turkey shotguns for 2014.

Remington Nitro

Budget-minded hunters looking for a quality shell packed with lots of shot should take a close look at Remington'™s Nitro Buffered turkey loads. The 3-inch 12-gauge shells are crammed with an incredible 1 7/8 ounces of #4, 5, or 6 lead pellets, offering dense patterns and lots of killing power.

Also available in 2 ¾ and 3 ½-inch 12-gauge shells and 3-inch 20-gauge shells, Nitro turkey loads sail downrange at velocities of up to 1,300 fps.

Price: $11

Check out all the hottest new turkey shotguns for 2014.

Remington Premier Magnum

Is it any wonder Remington is one of the leading sellers of turkey loads? Big Green'™s shells have been a fixture in the spring gobbler woods for decades. There'™s no question Remington'™s Premier High-Velocity magnum copper-plated turkey loads will keep the company at the forefront of the turkey market for many more years.

The shell'™s one-piece Power Piston wad and hardened copper-plated shot are flat-out deadly. The three-inch, 12-gauge loads are packed with a hefty 1 ¾ ounces of #4, 5 or 6 shot, and the 3 ½-inch 12-gauge loads come with 2 ounces of #4 or 5 shot.

Price: $17

Check out all the hottest new turkey shotguns for 2014.

Winchester Double X

It may be a 10-gauge load, but it goes to 11 thanks to Winchester'™s custom-blended powders and patented Grex buffering. Two ounces of copper-plated #4 or 5 shot is packed into the 3 ½-inch load and it travels at a smoking 1,300 fps. Double X turkey loads are also available in 12, 20 and even 16-gauge shells for those nostalgic turkey hunters among us.

The 16s come in 2 ¾-inch 4s or 6s and are packed with 1 1/8 ounces of shot that has a muzzle velocity of 1,295 fps. The 12-gauge shells are available in 2 ¾, 3 and 3 ½-inch loads packed with #4, 5 or 6 shot.

Price: $13 per box of 10

Check out all the hottest new turkey shotguns for 2014.

Winchester Long Beard XR

You need all the advantages you can get in the spring woods. Winchester gives you the upper hand with its Long Beard XR. The pellets, available in #4, 5 or 6, are coated with Winchester'™s patented ShotLok resin, which forms a barrier around each pellet.

It prevents pellets from deforming as they travel down the barrel, resulting in tighter patterns and fewer 'œflyer' pellets. That gives you a longer effective range and more dead turkeys. Available only in 12-gauge, Long Beard XRs come in 3 and 3 ½-inch shells.

Price: $20 per box of 10

Check out all the hottest new turkey shotguns for 2014.

Federal Mag-Shok Heavyweight LR

Turkey loads kick. There'™s no way around it. That recoil is one reason some hunters, particularly new or smaller-framed hunters, miss. Federal'™s Heavyweight LR take some of the punch of each shot without sacrificing killing power. They have nearly half the recoil of standard Heavyweight loads, but still travel at 1,300 fps at the muzzle.

The 2 ¾-inch 12-gauge shells are packed with 1 ¼ ounces of #6 or 7 tungsten-based shot; the 20-gauge shells are also 2 ¾ inches and are packed with 1 1/8 ounces of #7 shot.

Price: $25 per box of 5

Check out all the hottest new turkey shotguns for 2014.

Human factors, too, affect turkey populations.  As urban areas encroach on wild lands and major highways dissect the landscape, it becomes ever more important for those of us who care about turkeys and other wildlife to manage our resources wisely.

Toward that end, biologists from MDWFP and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries are working together with experts from the National Wild Turkey Federation to ensure the future of the birds in Mississippi.  By managing resources well today, these project seek to ensure the viability of turkey populations tomorrow.

Brandon Bobo is the NWTF regional wildlife biologist for Mississippi.  He said the turkey population in Mississippi has been trending down for the last several years.

"We have a very healthy population," he said.  "Since the year 2000, it's been higher than historical levels.  But in recent years it has been trending down."

This trend isn't limited to the Magnolia State, Bobo said.

"This is actually a trend throughout the Southeast," he said.  "But specifically in Mississippi and what the MDWFP has found is that yearly flood amounts have a great correlation to the hatch."

During the spring of 2103, Bobo said, portions of Mississippi experienced very heavy flooding.

"That usually leads to reduced nesting success," he said.  "This is especially true in areas such as the Delta and the southwest part of the state."  Unfortunately, Bobo said flooding is simply an act of nature that wildlife managers can't control.

"However, there are things we can do to mitigate some of those losses," he said.  "One of those things is to create higher quality nesting habitat.  Here in Mississippi, the limiting factors that we usually have are the nesting cover and the brood rearing cover.  So what we're trying to address are those specific habitats that give the birds more success with nesting."

Bobo said that wildlife managers taking a landscape approach to turkey conservation in the state. That means a biological approach, looking across the region from the 50,000-foot altitude, is the best way.

"But at the same time, we're getting down in the dirt and meeting with landowners and working hand in hand with them to see what their goals are.  Right now, we're in the third year of an agreement with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, which deals with a large landscape across 39 counties in the south part of the state.  It's tied directly to the Longleaf Pine Initiative, and the agreement allows us to meet with private landowners of any size."

Under this agreement, Bobo said, wildlife biologists can work with landowners to create detailed management plans of 5 to 10 year durations.  After meeting with a landowner, he said, the first thing that a biologist does is write a Conservation Action Plan.

"The NRCS helps pay for that," Bobo said.  "Then the NRCS looks at the plan to see what program fit the landowner's needs the best.  The landowner isn't obligated to participate in any kind of cost share program.  What we do is a free service to them."

A new program that's underway is "Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt."

"Under this program, across the nation, we're going to try to enhance or conserve at least 4 million acres and create 1.5 million new hunters," Bobo said.  "Then we're going to open access for hunting on at least 500,000 acres.

"Mississippi is right now finalizing our state strategic plan, which includes exactly how many acres we want to open for access, how many acres we want to conserve and enhance, and how many hunters we want to create."

This is a landscape approach as well, Bobo said, but within that framework managers are focusing on certain areas that have the direst need for habitat work.

On public land, NWTF and MDWFP are working on a number of wildlife management areas across the state.

"A lot of that involves burning, and herbicide application for exotic and invasive species," Bobo said.  "The main thing we try to do on those public areas is address the limiting factors of nesting and brood rearing habitat, and early successional habitat.  In other words, the first, second and third years of vegetation that grows after burning."

The MDWFP and NWTF have just finished a project on Copiah County WMA, Bobo said.

"We also are working on Noxubee National Wildlife Refuge," he said.  "That's also a burning and herbicide project that's a large scale project under a 5-year agreement."

Another federal land project is on the Bogue Chitto National Wildlife Refuge.

"They're in need of assistance with their burning, which they've been doing every year," Bobo said.  "Due to government cutbacks they've lost the money to continue.  So the NWTF has stepped in, and we're going to contribute yearly for the next five years to help them with their burning."

The NWTF involvement in state land management is likely to increase over the next few months.  In December, Bobo and other NWTF biologists were scheduled to meet with WMA managers from across the state to discuss ways in which the NWTF can be more effective in helping the MDWFP to manage WMA lands.

"We want to really make a difference on those public lands," Bobo said.  "We're trying to work with both public and private lands, but the reality is that most of the woodlands in Mississippi are privately owned.  It's good to be able to get out there with the private landowners and meet with them and try to give them advice."

If you are a private landowner in Mississippi and want to improve the turkey habitat on your land, you can contact Brandon Bobo at (256) 452-5820 or e-mail him at bbobo@nwtf.net.

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