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Be Safe When Enjoying Popular Turkey Hunting
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Turkey season opens soon in Mississippi, and hunters are encouraged to be safe when enjoying this popular and challenging sport.
Turkey season runs from March 20 to May 1 in Mississippi. Richard Cain, hunter education program director with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks in Jackson, said there are about 40,000 turkey hunters in the state annually. These account for about 18 percent of the total hunting licenses sold.
In the 1997-98 hunting year, no turkey hunters were injured, but there were 21 hunting accidents, five fatal across the state. In the year that ends June 30, there have already been 22 hunting accidents, four fatal. Again, no turkey hunters have been hurt.
"When you compare those statistics with the several million man-days the 300,000 hunters spend in the woods, those numbers are really low," Cain said. "Mississippi has more injuries that require medical attention from tennis than from hunting."
Dean Stewart, wildlife specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said hunter education has helped make the sport safer.
"Each year, between 13,000 and 14,000 Mississippians pass the basic hunter education course," Stewart said. "This course is mandatory for everyone born in January 1972 or later who wishes to buy a hunting license."
Stewart said turkey is probably one of the more dangerous species to hunt because everyone in the woods is completely camouflaged.
"Turkey eyesight is very keen and they spot movement and color," Stewart said. "Deer hunters wear orange, which has little impact on whether or not the deer sees them. It is much different with turkey hunting."
Turkey hunting also involves hunters sitting on the ground at turkey level, staying still and making turkey sounds.
Cain said this makes it very important for hunters to completely identify their targets.
"Don't shoot at sounds or movements, and never, never shoot until you know without a shadow of a doubt that the entire thing you see is a turkey," Cain said. "Don't think you're alone in the woods because everybody in the woods is trying to hide."
Cain recommended wearing blaze orange when entering and leaving the woods. Also, wrap harvested turkeys in orange so other hunters are not confused when these are carried away.
As with all hunting, hunters should be sure they're physically fit before heading to the woods. The thrill of the event and the exertion involved can be more than some people can take.
Cain also warned prospective turkey hunters to know what they're getting into.
"Once you start hunting turkey, it can become a serious hobby," Cain said. "Mississippi is blessed with a large turkey population."