Conservation Commission Expands Fall Turkey Season

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The Missouri Conservation Commission has approved 2005 spring turkey hunting regulations identical to this year's, but it more than doubled the length of the fall turkey hunting season and liberalized fall bag limit regulations slightly.

At its December meeting in Jefferson City, the Commission set the 2005 spring turkey hunting season for April 18 through May 8, with a youth hunt the preceding weekend, April 9 and 10. This season, along with bag limits and other regulations, are the same as in recent years.

The Commission approved a month-long 2005 Fall Firearms Turkey Hunting Season from Oct. 1 through Oct. 31. Previous years' fall turkey seasons ran 14 days, starting on the second Monday in October.

The Commission left the total bag limit for the fall season at two birds of either sex. However, it voted to allow hunters to take both birds on the same day. Previously, hunters could take only one bird per day.

The Conservation Department's Regulations Committee recommended the longer fall season. According to the committee's report, the fall harvest in recent years has been much less than 5 percent of the state's wild turkey population. The committee said hunters could take twice as many turkeys in the fall without affecting future turkey numbers or the quality of spring turkey hunting.

The Commission approved the changes with the understanding that the Conservation Department's staff will carefully track hunter participation in the expanded fall hunt and the fall turkey harvest through surveys and harvest reports. They will re-evaluate the changes if the fall harvest reaches 50 percent of the previous spring gobbler harvest or if a majority of turkey hunters are unsatisfied with their fall turkey hunting experience.

Sixty-four percent of spring and fall turkey hunters surveyed by the Conservation Department favored a longer fall season. Seventy-four percent said they favored changing the bag limit.

Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer said the Conservation Department is taking a cautious approach to liberalizing fall turkey hunting regulations.

"Missouri has always had a very conservative turkey management approach," said Beringer. "The idea has been to offer the most hunting opportunity possible while ensuring that liberalizations don't hurt overall turkey numbers. That is one of the reasons Missouri leads the nation in turkey harvest today. These changes in the fall season are consistent with that conservative approach."