MDC forecasts good spring turkey season
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri turkey hunters can expect a good spring season overall according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). The spring turkey hunting season starts with a youth-only weekend April 8-9. The regular spring season runs April 17 through May 7.
Although four consecutive years of poor hatches caused Missouri’s turkey population to decline during the late 2000s, improvements in productivity have since resulted in a rebound in turkey numbers throughout much of the state.
"Since 2011, we’ve seen an increasing trend in the spring turkey harvest," MDC Turkey Biologist Jason Isabelle said. "A great deal of what makes for a good spring turkey season depends on the hatch two years prior. Although the 2015 hatch was not as high as in 2014, it, along with carry-over from previous years, should result in a strong 2017 harvest."
Isabelle does note that last year’s poor hatch will result in fewer jakes on the landscape.
"I think hunters will notice a reduction in the number of jakes they’re used to seeing," he said. "However, because most hunters prefer to harvest adult gobblers, the effects of last year’s hatch won’t be fully realized until the 2018 spring season."
For most of the state, Isabelle expects this year’s spring turkey harvest to be at or slightly below last year’s mark. Although this year’s harvest total isn’t expected to be as high as last year’s, there are still plenty of gobblers on the landscape to provide some good hunting this year.
MDC offers turkey hunting opportunities on more than 500 conservation areas and the state’s diverse landscape means turkey numbers often vary by region.
"Although the statewide trend has been an increase in turkey numbers in recent years, we often see varying trends at the regional-level, so hunters should be mindful of what’s going on in their part of the state," said Isabelle.
Due to a poor hatch in 2015, this year’s turkey harvest in the Northeast and West Prairie regions is expected to be down from one year ago.
"Both regions had very low poult-to-hen ratios during the summer brood survey a couple years ago, so I’d expect fewer 2-year-old gobblers this year in these regions," Isabelle said.
Isabelle indicated he expects spring harvests in the Ozarks, Lindley Breaks, Union Breaks, Mississippi Lowlands, and Northwest regions (see map below) to be similar to last year’s.
"Production was generally better in these regions in 2015, so I wouldn’t expect them to deviate too much from last year’s mark," he said.
Isabelle noted that weather can have a significant impact on the harvest. "With a relatively short spring hunting season, the weather we experience can have a strong influence on our harvest numbers," he said.
Rain and wind can suppress gobbling activity, so most hunters hope for calm, sunny mornings, especially during weekends when most venture into the woods to hunt.
Despite what is shaping up to be an early spring, Isabelle does not believe it will have much of an effect on this year’s spring turkey season. He notes that although an early or late spring can have some influence on the timing of nesting, the turkey breeding season is influenced primarily by the amount of daylight, which keeps the timing of nesting about the same each year.
Get More Information
Find detailed information on harvest limits, allowed hunting methods, hunter education requirements, permits, MDC hunting areas, tagging and checking procedures, regulations and more in MDC’s 2017 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet available from MDC offices and nature centers, other places where permits are sold, and online at http://on.mo.gov/2mn9d8K. For more information about spring turkey hunting, visit MDC’s website at http://on.mo.gov/2mVaDnK.
Isabelle stressed that hunters can easily avoid the main cause of turkey-hunting incidents—mistaking or being mistaken by another hunter for game.
"Each year, most turkey hunting incidents typically involve hunters who fail to positively identify their targets," said Isabelle. "Unless you are absolutely certain that what you’re looking at is a wild turkey, remember that any movement you see or any sounds you hear could be another hunter."
He also advised hunters to wear some hunter-orange clothing when moving through the woods or fields, particularly when hunting public land, and to always know the locations of all members of a hunting party.
"Many turkey hunting incidents actually involve members of the same hunting party," said Isabelle. "If you’re hunting with someone else and you split up, be certain you know where your hunting partner will be at all times."
Brag a Bit
MDC hunting certificates are great ways to memorialize a hunter’s first deer and turkey harvests. Visit http://on.mo.gov/1TpY6Gz to create free commemorative certificates.
Hunters can share photos of their harvests through MDC’s Hunting Bragging Board by using #mdcbragboard when posting pictures to their social media accounts. Learn more at mdc.mo.gov/huntingbragboard.