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Spring provides turkey season
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Flowers are blooming, hardwood trees are budding and flowering, songbirds are singing, and wild turkeys are mating. Mississippi has to be the prettiest place on Earth, especially in the springtime, making it my favorite time of year.
Mississippi’s wild turkeys are majestic game birds that have always been important to people in the South. The earliest North Americans probably used the turkey as food. Since that time, the turkey has held an important niche in our economy and in the environment.
Many Mississippi hunters take to the woods this time of year to experience the exhilaration of hearing a turkey gobbler announce his presence or of glimpsing the spectacle of a strutting gobbler in full display to attract turkey hens for mating.
The turkey’s senses are second to no other animal. To successfully catch sight of a gobbler, hunters must be motionless at 125 yards or so from a bird, wear camouflage clothing, and be competent callers. Hunting turkeys can be inherently dangerous due to the potential of other hunters being nearby in the woods, so make safety a top priority.
Arrive at hunting spots before daybreak, and walk in to your spot before other hunters arrive. Don’t park anywhere near another vehicle. If you hear a gobbler, hunters in your area will also hear and go to the same turkey. Be respectful of other hunters and hope that they will return the favor.
Camouflage clothing is a must to remain unseen by the wild bird. Turkeys have keen senses and are able to detect the slightest of movements or sounds in the woods. To be successful, it helps to be a proficient caller. As you call, be watchful of movement all around you -- from turkeys as well as other hunters.
For extra safety in the woods, avoid wearing any clothing or carrying any items that are red, white or pale blue. When a gobbler is displaying to females, his head takes on these colors.
Avoid calling too much. On some occasions, turkeys will call often, but they mostly communicate intermittently with fellow flock members in soft tones. My advice is to mimic infrequent, softer calling. From a safety perspective, this strategy is less likely to attract nearby hunters who may approach what they believe is a calling turkey.
If you hear frequent calling in the woods, be very cautious since it actually might be another hunter. Never use a gobble call unless you know no one else is in your area. Hunters will quickly approach what they perceive as a gobbler, so this type of calling can be dangerous.
Lastly, keep still and avoid unnecessary movement. If you see someone approaching you in the woods, speak to this person in normal tones to let him or her know that you are there.
Using common sense and attempting to avoid other hunters will keep you safe in the turkey woods this spring. Hearing and seeing a wild turkey in Mississippi’s great outdoors is a thrill for sure; enjoying this experience safely will make it memorable for a lifetime.
Editor’s Note: Extension Outdoors is a column authored by several different experts in the Mississippi State University Extension Service.