Mississippi’s spring turkey season unchanged, fall season closed

Published 12:47 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

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By Hunter Cloud

The Daily Leader

JACKSON — Hunter after hunter stepped up to a podium to express their opinion on the proposed turkey season changes Thursday in a regularly scheduled Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Commission meeting. Public comment lasted nearly an hour before commissioners eventually made a decision on the fate of Spring Turkey season frameworks in Mississippi.

Turkey Program director Adam Butler addressed the commission before they voted on proposed rules Thursday with the same message he gave in February and April.

“Thank you for your patience. There are changes in a lot of states and it is not lost on me the public scrutiny we are under right now,” Butler said. “We wanted time to look at this. I appreciate the patience y’all have shown. We are here because the public have been concerned about turkeys. We had a group that came a few years ago from south Mississippi. It set change in action. We looked at turkey seasons in Mississippi. We put together a management plan. I am proud of our effort. We looked at this six ways to Sunday.”

Commissioners voted against adopting Rule 3.1, which would have pushed back spring turkey season’s opening date to the Saturday closest to March 20, opting to amend the rule. Commissioner Leonard Bentz made a motion to keep the spring date March 15 and his motion passed. MDWFP commissioners did vote to suspend the fall season with Bentz voting in opposition. Mississippi State University research has shown a fall season closure would aid hen survival and boost turkey numbers.

Bentz’s stance against closing the fall turkey season in the last two commission meetings has been based upon not taking away opportunities away from hunters. Commissioner William Mounger said the fall season being suspended means they could revisit the possibility of opening a fall season at a later date.

A physical tagging system was approved by the commission again with Bentz voting opposed. Butler said there is a slight caveat with the new tagging system. Due to MDWFP transitioning to a new licensing system, the turkey tags would not be implemented until the 2025 season. Physical tags give game wardens an additional tool to enforce bag limits and protect the resource.

Butler was happy with the support several public commenters expressed during the meeting about implementing a turkey stamp. Mississippi’s legislature would have to pass legislation creating a turkey stamp.

“I’m tickled to death about the turkey stamp and the fact we have this amount of support,” Butler said. “I hope it will have legs and carry on.”

Public commenters submitted 135 comments ahead of the Thursday meeting either online or in person to executive assistant Sharon Polzin. Butler said 87 percent of those public comments were in support of physical tagging, 74 percent supported shortening the spring season and 83 percent supported the suspension of the fall season. The 135 comments are just a fraction of the estimated 60,000 turkey hunters.

We would love to hear your thoughts on the turkey season decisions. Email your thoughts to hunter.cloud@dailyleader.com.