Study: Turkey gobbling activity is related to the weather

State

Mississippi State University personnel are involved in research and educational efforts to ensure that turkey hunting is well-managed and successful in the state. (Photo by MSU Extension Service/Submitted photo)

STARKVILLE, Miss. (WJTV) – A study conducted by the Mississippi State University (MSU) Forest and Wildlife Research Center (FWRC) found wild turkeys do not like humidity. The study was conducted in response to concerns that Mississippi’s turkey season was not timed properly.

Setting hunting seasons is the responsibility of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP). The agency has traditionally instituted a statewide, seven-week, spring harvest season for turkeys. However, hunters argue that there are different peaks in gobbling activity across the state, meaning the season should open and close at different times in different parts of Mississippi.

Francisco Vilella, an FWRC adjunct professor and scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, said turkey hunters in the southern part of the state thought the season began after peak gobbling activity ended. Hunters in north Mississippi thought the season began too early before turkeys began their ritual vocalizations and courtships.

“The objective of this study was to determine whether differences in peak gobbling activity existed across a latitudinal gradient of Mississippi,” Vilella said.

The data suggested that weather influences gobbling activity, and the existing hunting season covers peak times of turkey activity across the state.

“Across the globe, natural-resource managers strive to understand the effects of weather on wildlife populations to implement effective conservation and game species management,” Vilella said. “Weather has been recognized as a density-independent factor influencing the abundance, distribution, and behavior of vertebrates.”

Vilella said the MSU data indicated that no changes were required to the hunting season framework established by MDWFP. While turkeys have different peaks at the geographic ends of the state, both peaks are captured by the hunting season.

In 2021, the fall general turkey hunting season extends from October 15 to November 15 in certain counties. The spring general season was March 15 to May 1.

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