From the Missouri Department of Conservation
-- Rain and severe weather complicated hunting during the first week of Missouri's 21-day spring turkey season, leading to a 10-percent drop in the first week harvest.
Missouri hunters checked 18,788 turkeys April 18 through 24, a decrease of 2,233 compared to last year. Top counties during the first week of Missouri's regular spring turkey season were Franklin with 427 birds checked, Bollinger with 332 and Callaway with 329.
Resource scientist Jason Isabelle is the Department of Conservation's lead turkey biologist. He predicted a slight decrease in this year's turkey harvest, because turkey numbers are down slightly statewide. The 10.6-percent drop in first-week harvest is more than he expected, but Isabelle said it is not surprising.
"Weather is always the wild card in trying to predict turkey harvest," Isabelle said. "Rain and wind make hunting more of a challenge, so you can count on the harvest going down during stormy weather. Having violent thunderstorms, tornadoes and intermittent rain during the first weekend of the season made the effect of weather especially important this year."
Although he predicted a dip in the spring turkey harvest, Isabelle also predicted that hunters would have more mature gobblers to hunt this year. That also is coming true. First-week harvest figures show that mature gobblers accounted for 80 percent of the birds checked, up from 77.6 percent last year.
"We saw a slight improvement in the hatch two years ago," he said. "That means we have more 2-year-old gobblers in the woods this year."
Isabelle said this is good news for two reasons. First, two-year-old birds generally gobble more than any other age class, and that makes for more exciting hunting. Second, because mature gobblers are bearing more of the harvest this year, that means more 1-year-old gobblers are going to make it through the hunting season and live to be 2-year-olds next spring.
Isabelle noted that turkey season continues through May 8, giving hunters ample opportunity to make up for lost time. If the weather cooperates, particularly on weekends, this year's harvest could still be close to last year's number.
Details about Missouri's spring turkey season are found in the 2011 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet available from permit vendors or at www.mdc.mo.gov/node/4066. Information about turkey hunting safety is available at www.mdc.mo.gov/node/4122.