Hunters fighting through predators, temperatures

Published 12:01 am Sunday, April 21, 2013

NATCHEZ — Local Eric Perry said turkey season has been a slow one so far this year.

Though he’s taken a bird this season, Perry said he’s been fighting through some coyote problems even since opening weekend, when he took some Oxford residents on a guided hunt.

“When we got the bird to fly down out of the tree, the coyote was sitting there waiting,” Perry recalled. “We got to witness the coyote jump the gobbler. (The turkey) ran away and flew off, and since the fight was loud, it pretty much ruined our hunt.”

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Perry said he’s not the only person having trouble with predators lately. He said a friend of his, Keith Turner, has seen both coyote and bobcat signs when he’s out hunting the gobblers. Predators are just one of several factors that have made turkey hunting difficult for some locals this year, he said.

“Predators have affected our area and his area,” Perry said. “I talked to some people who said the birds have henned up pretty badly. You can’t shoot the hens, so you have an abundance of them you’re having to fight. Once those hens are there, he has no reason to keep gobbling. I’ve had that problem for the past several years.”

Another potential problem for turkey hunters is the unsettled temperatures. March and April have seen cold snaps even after the official start of spring. Perry, though, said that hasn’t seemed to affect him.

“I’ve heard of a few people who were having trouble, but I’ve been out when it was 38 (degrees) and worked birds all morning, and then when it was 75 to 80, and I had the same luck,” he said. “The only other time the weather affects me is when it’s windy.”

Natchez resident Kyle Ketchings, who was hunting turkeys in Hattiesburg Saturday, said he thinks the unsettled weather has definitely made things a little more difficult for turkey hunters this season.

“The warmer it is for a longer period of time, they hotter they’ll get,” Ketchings said. “You get a cold snap and it might cut them off for a little while.”

Local turkey hunter Mike Upton said the weather can play a roll in a turkey population’s hatch.

“I do think the weather has affected them,” Upton said. “They are sticking with the hens and making it harder to call them. Usually later in the season they start responding better, and people should be having better luck.”

Upton said he’s noticed the local turkey population has been down compared to recent years, and he has a theory as to why.

“I personally think the buffalo knats that move in during the early summer have hurt the poults,” Upton said. “I know people who had chickens, and they were killing the chickens by clogging their nasal passages and suffocating them. I was thinking that they’ve hurt the turkey population, because about the time the turkeys hatch is when the buffalo knats really hit.”

Like Upton, Ketchings said he expects any slow starts to the season to pick up for hunters that have had tough luck so far.

“I’ve talked to a few people, and I’ve heard in the past couple of weeks that they’re just now getting hot and ready to go, and that’s usually how it works,” Ketchings said. “The later on in the season, the better it gets.”