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Officials report best wild turkey hatch in a decade

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Near-perfect conditions have produced the best turkey hatch in 10 years, according to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

July observations indicate that “in 2014, we ought to have a tremendous season,” particularly in southwest Mississippi, said Wild Turkey Program coordinator Dave Godwin.

The last solid overall statewide hatch was about in 2002, Godwin said.

“Poor turkeys have everything in the world against them,” hunter Danny Joe O’Cain of Canton, told The Clarion-Ledger. “Even when the weather cooperates with the birds, they have to contend with predators.

“Bobcats, coyotes and fox, those are the rough ones,” said O’Cain.

He said he’s seen signs of a good hatch in his area: “I just got back in the woods this week and I’m seeing a lot of feathers where they are molting.”

The department has observers statewide for its annual turkey brood survey. August observation cards have not been turned in yet, but Godwin says the count in July is the most accurate. Earlier than that, he said, accurate poult counts are difficult because of some re-nesting, and in August, some young birds can be mistaken for adult hens.

Weather was good for gobblers, hens and chicks, department biologist Adam Butler said.

“We had an outstanding acorn crop across the state last year along with a very mild winter, so hens should have come into the breeding season in very good condition,”

Combined with an early spring and early nesting, Butler said, “those factors really set the table for a good hatch.”

Weather was perfect for incubation, too, he said. “It appears as if everything has lined up perfectly for the birds this year,” said Butler.

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