Missouri Entices Turkey Gobble Counters

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Five lucky wild turkey aficionados will win Resident Lifetime Conservation Partner Permits in the next five years, according to Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Beringer is looking for up to 500 volunteers to take part in a five-year study of turkey gobbling habits. The objective is to discover when the peak periods of gobbling activity occur so the Conservation Department can time Missouri's spring turkey season to coincide with the period when gobblers are most receptive to calling.

As an incentive for participating in the study, the George Clark Memorial Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, in cooperation with the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, will hold a drawing among volunteers each year of the study. Each of the winners will receive a lifetime small-game hunting and fishing permit. Volunteers must be Missouri residents to qualify for the drawing, since nonresident lifetime permits are not available.

Volunteers will count the number of gobbles and the number of gobbling birds they hear during a 20-minute period before sunrise twice a week between March 15 and May 15. These "gobbleteers" will choose their listening locations.

The study will begin this spring and run through 2011. To sign up, e-mail Beringer at Jeff.Beringer@mdc.mo.gov. Type "Gobble Study" in the subject line, and provide your name, address and county in the body of the e-mail.

Tom turkeys are most vocal just before hens become receptive to mating and just after hens begin incubating their eggs. This creates two peaks in gobbling. Volunteer reports will help Beringer determine whether the current timing of spring turkey season meets the goal of putting hunters in the woods during the second peak in gobbling.

The study also seeks to discover any relationships between gobbling and other factors, such as weather and spring leaf-out. The results will be published on the NWTF Missouri Chapter's website.

For years, Missouri's spring turkey season opened on the Monday closest to April 21. That changes this year, with the season opening on the third Monday of the month. As a result, turkey season opens April 16 this year - a week earlier than it would have under the old system. In the long run, the change will result in opening dates that average three days earlier than in the past. The change was made to accommodate the desire many hunters have expressed for an earlier opening date.

The youth season will be much earlier this year as a result of the formula change and to avoid a conflict with Easter weekend. Instead of opening nine days before the regular season as usual, this year's youth hunt will open on the Saturday before the Easter weekend, which is the last weekend in March. The youth season will take place in March only twice during the next 20 years.