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Hunters having to change with the times

Hunting is a way to not only provide food but also serves as a sport for enthusiasts across the country.

According to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the 2020 spring turkey-hunting season started on March 14 and will end on May 1.

While this would already entice hunters around the county to venture into the woods, unprecedented circumstances have affected the way hunting is done.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has shuttered schools and businesses across the United States, but in Pearl River County and surrounding areas the closures have led to more hunters looking for turkeys.

“Basically there’s a lot more people hunting and in the woods now than there have been in the years past. There are more hunters on public land than normal,” Jay Hancock, a hunter in Pearl River County, said.

Some normal hunting areas have been closed, which has then pushed more hunters into the woods that are still open to the public.

Hunting turkeys requires an early morning start and plenty of land so as to prevent hunters from going after the same prize.

However, the increase in hunters and decrease in available areas means several hunters could hear the “gobble” of the same turkey.

“Now there are so many people trying to get out there and beat the crowd because you can’t really hunt in the same areas. If you see a truck you respectfully don’t go to that area and try to find another one,” Hancock said.

People who would normally have work or school obligations now find themselves with more free time than usual.

In turn people are going out hunting as community members try to find ways to stay active and be out of the house.

“Maybe some of the things they’ve done before are not open, so they gravitate to trying something new. Or they may have had it as a hobby a long time ago and decided to try it again,” Hancock said.

Hancock said that economically turkeys aren’t the cheapest animals to bag and that the reward is often dwarfed by the cost of getting one.

Because of this, Hancock said the increase in hunters isn’t due to people wanting to put food on the table, but is instead about enjoying the sport.

“People aren’t necessarily saying, ‘I need a turkey to be able to eat.’ They would find a more economical avenue to do that. There’s not an abundance of turkeys,” Hancock said.

The sport is alive and well as hunters fill the woods, but they’ve been affected like everyone else by the outbreak of COVID-19.

It’s become more of a solo sport for Hancock and he said he takes the necessary steps to try and maintain his health as the Coronavirus continues to change aspects of once normal routines.

“When it comes to simple things like going to a store to get supplies, or stopping to get gas, I’m taking those extra precautions along the way,” Hancock said.