Missouri Turkey Harvest Down 14 Percent Opening Day
Sometimes being right is no fun, as Missouri turkey biologist Tom Dailey knows. Dailey, a resource scientist with the Missouri Department of Conservation, predicted the 2009 spring turkey harvest would be substantially lower than last year. If the number of turkeys killed on opening day is any indication, he was right.
Hunters checked 6,013 turkeys on April 20. That is down 14 percent from last year. This year’s opening-day harvest is nearly identical to the kill in 2007, when a severe freeze set back wild turkey mating and nesting behavior by weeks.
Dailey attributes the reduced harvest to weather-related nesting losses in recent years. The percentage of juvenile male turkeys in the harvest – 17.5 percent compared to around 22 percent in past years – also confirms Dailey's prediction.
"I wish we had been wrong about the effects of last year's record wet weather on turkey nesting success," said Dailey, "but these numbers are what you would expect if nest success really was down. We are seeing about the same percentage of jakes (juvenile male turkeys) in the harvest as we had last year."
Dailey said the reduced jake harvest in 2008 was a result of the unusually late and severe cold spell in April 2007.
In spite of the reduction, Dailey said Missouri's turkey harvest remains one of the biggest in the nation, and the quality of Show-Me State turkey hunting is unsurpassed. For example, figures published by the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) estimate Missouri's turkey flock at 400,000 birds and the state's spring harvest at 40,000. Arkansas estimates its flock at 115,000 and expects to shoot 11,471 birds this spring. Kansas harvests about 34,000 birds each spring, Iowa about 15,500, Nebraska about 18,000 and Tennessee about 30,000. The NWTF did not have figures for Oklahoma, Illinois or Kentucky.
This year's top opening-day counties were Franklin, where hunters checked 144 turkeys; Texas, with 133 birds checked; and Gasconade with 119.
Only four of the 43 counties north of the Missouri River avoided declines in opening-day harvest. Those were Warren (51 to 52), Pike (66 to 73), Clinton (30 to 36) and Atchison (32 to 38). Hunters harvested exactly the same number of turkeys opening day this year as in 2008 in Texas and Hickory counties.
The biggest decreases, by percentage, were in Worth (22 to 7 or 68 percent), Shelby (54 to 26, 52 percent), Linn (37 to 18, 51 percent) and Putnam (55 to 27, 51 percent) counties. The largest declines in total harvest occurred in Monroe (98 to 51), Macon (102 to 56), Callaway (151 to 106) and Vernon (88 to 44) counties.
The news was not all bad. The Conservation Department recorded no firearms-related hunting incidents on opening day. Furthermore, 10 counties posted opening-day turkey harvest increases of 33 percent or more. All 10 were in the extreme southern part of the state. Counties with large-percentage harvest increases included Mississippi (from 1 to 6 birds checked), New Madrid (from 0 to 9), Pemiscot (0 to 3), Ozark (38 to 69), Oregon (41 to 72), Stoddard (43 to 65), Taney (53 to 80), Lawrence (39 to 57), Scott (17 to 24) and Howell (62 to 83).
For an up-to-date, county-by-county report of the spring turkey harvest, visit mdc.mo.gov/cgi-bin/maps/deerturkey/totals.cgi?season=Turkey%20Spring%20Firearms.