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Missouri Fall Turkey Harvest

From Missouri Department of Natural Resources

-- An increase in Missouri’s 2012 fall firearms turkey harvest confirms population gains that turkey managers predicted and hunters hoped for.

Missouri’s Telecheck database recorded a harvest of 8,498 turkeys during the fall firearms turkey season Oct. 1 through 31. Top harvest counties were Webster with 225 turkeys checked, Laclede with 223, and Greene with 216.

This year’s fall firearms turkey harvest is 1,421 more than last year, a 20-percent increase.  Resource Scientist Jason Isabelle credits weather in part for the jump in fall turkey harvest.

“Our turkey population struggled through several tough years,” Isabelle said. “2008 was the wettest year on record in Missouri, and 2009 and 2010 weren’t much better. That took a toll on turkeys and other ground-nesting wildlife.”

Isabelle said the 2011 hatch was considerably better than the previous four, and bolstered turkey numbers throughout much of the state. This year’s hatch, with a statewide poult-to-hen ratio of 1.7 poults per hen, was identical to 2011, which was the best since 2002.

MDC sold 16,413 fall firearms turkey hunting permits this fall, an increase of 9.3 percent from 2011.

Isabelle said he is encouraged by the increased fall turkey harvest and optimistic about prospects for the 2013 spring turkey season.

“In parts of Missouri, our turkey numbers are still well below where they were five or 10 years ago, but the hatches of the last two years have been a step in the right direction. 2011’s hatch should result in the largest group of 2-year-old gobblers we’ve had in quite a few years, which should make the 2013 spring season exciting for a lot of hunters.”

It’s unlikely Missouri will ever see the numbers of turkeys it had immediately following restoration, according to Isabelle. That high-water mark was the culmination of a restoration program in which turkeys were reintroduced into areas where they had been absent for decades. Turkey populations expanded rapidly until they encountered biological resistance from factors that limit their numbers. From that peak, turkey numbers decreased to levels that are likely more sustainable in the long-run.

“As long as we have enough habitat, Missouri will have a great turkey resource,” Isabelle said. “But wildlife populations have peaks during periods of favorable conditions and valleys during less favorable years. In the coming years, fluctuations in our turkey population can be expected. We’ll have our higher years and we’ll have our lower years. That’s just the nature of a species like the wild turkey.”

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