Youth-only turkey season is Saturday, Sunday; MDC projects challenge for older birds but more young
The Missouri Department of Conservation has good news and bad news for Ozark County turkey hunters this spring.
The bad news: Hunters can expect this spring season to be about as challenging as the past few spring seasons. The good news: The numbers of harvestable turkeys is likely to improve the next few years.
This year’s spring turkey season kicks off this weekend with a youth-only hunt to be held April 10-11. Regular spring turkey season follows, running from April 19 through May 9.
“A great deal of what makes for a good spring turkey season depends on the hatch two years prior because it affects the number of two-year-old gobblers on the landscape,” said MDC turkey biologist Reina Tyl. “These young gobblers are not associated with hens as often as older, more dominant birds and are the most likely to respond to hunters’ calls.”
MDC says turkey production was generally poor statewide in 2019, meaning hunters can expect fewer two-year-old gobblers available for harvest this year. Considering the prospects, hunters who aim to harvest a gobbler that is 2 years old or older should be prepared to put in a bit more effort to be successful this year.
“When gobbler numbers are down, it becomes even more important to spend time scouting for flocks before the start of the season,” Tyl said. “Hunters should get out to their hunting areas as much as possible to listen for birds gobbling at daybreak.”
Tyl noted that hunters should also take the time to learn where turkeys are spending most of their time after they fly down from the roost.
“Use binoculars to spot turkeys feeding in open areas or look for signs of where turkeys have been feeding in the timber,” she said. “This will help hunters be in the right area when the hunting season gets here.”
Although this year’s spring prospects aren’t encouraging, it isn’t the first time poor turkey production has reduced turkey numbers in Missouri. After reaching a population peak in the early- to mid-2000s, Missouri’s turkey population experienced four years of poor production from 2007 to 2010, causing the state’s population to decline. However, Tyl noted that turkey numbers rebounded following several years of improved production.
“In much of the state, we observed improved production during 2011, 2012 and 2014,” said Tyl. “As a result, turkey numbers increased, and hunters generally had better hunting seasons in the years that followed.”
She added, “We are again in a period of lower turkey abundance on a statewide scale driven by poor production in recent years. However, turkey numbers may start to rebound a bit in those regions of the state with improved production in 2020.”
For more information about the hunt and regulations visit huntfish.mdc.mo.gov/spring-turkey-hunting-regulations-and-information. Hunters can purchase turkey tags through vendors across the state, at mdc.mo.gov/buypermits or through the MDC free app “MO Hunting.”
Tyl stressed that hunters can easily avoid the main cause of turkey-hunting incidents —mistaking or being mistaken by another hunter for wild game.
“Each year, most turkey hunting incidents typically involve hunters who fail to identify their targets,” said Tyl. “Unless you are certain that what you’re looking at is a wild turkey, remember that any movement you see or any sounds you hear while you’re hunting could be another hunter.”
She also advised hunters to wear some hunter-orange clothing when moving through the woods or fields, particularly when hunting public land.
“Bringing along an orange hat or vest is an easy way to stay safe”, said Tyl. “Wear one when you’re moving and put it away when you sit down to work a bird.”
Tyl also noted that many turkey hunting incidents involve members of the same hunting party. “If you’re hunting with someone else and you split up, be certain you know where your hunting partner will be at all times,” she advised.