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Missouri’s Opening day Turkey Harvest Down 14 percent

From the Missouri Department of Conservation

-- 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.

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.

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.

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