May 24, 2001

Youth Hunt Puts Spring Turkey Harvest Over The Top

Turkey hunters killed 55,302 gobblers during Missouri's spring turkey season, just slightly shy of last year's record mark. But adding the 2,530 birds checked during Missouri's first-ever youth spring turkey season, the 2001 spring turkey harvest is a record.

In spite of a slow start, the regular spring turkey harvest came within 1,539 of last year's record harvest of 56,841. Adding the harvest during the two-day youth turkey hunt brings the 2001 spring turkey harvest total to 57,832. That is 991 more than in 2000.

The number of turkeys taken by hunters jumped in 1998, when Missouri held its first three-week spring season and recorded a harvest of 48,323. The third-largest harvest ever recorded came in 1999, when hunters bagged 50,338 birds.

Resident and nonresident spring turkey permit sales totaled 113,253 this year, compared to 112,003 last year. This was the first year that Missouri offered a two-day youth turkey-hunting season before the regular season. An estimated 10,000 to 12,000 youth hunters under 12 years old and an undetermined number between ages 12 and 15 checked 2,530 gobblers during that season.

Mike Hubbard, a wildlife research biologist specializing in wild turkeys for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said before the season that he expected a harvest of approximately 52,000 birds. He expressed pleasure that his estimate proved conservative.

"The strength of this harvest reflects a strong turkey population, good weather for hunting and the skill and dedication of our turkey hunters," said Hubbard. "They got through the wet, windy weather during the first couple of days of the season and went on to a very successful season. If the weather holds and we have another good year for reproduction, like we have the past three, we can look for continued super hunting at least for the next few years."

Ten hunting accidents marred the three-week season. None were fatal, however.

Macon County came from behind to take the top spot in county harvest totals, with 1,188 birds checked. Texas County, which posted a harvest of 1,080 birds, occupied the second-place, where it had been all season. Franklin County, which led harvest totals for the first two weeks of the season, fell to third in the final standings with 1,069 gobblers checked.

Regional totals were: northeast, 10,229; northwest, 8,401; west-central, 7,977; east-central, 6,120; central, 6,074; Ozark, 4,712; southwest, 4,567; southeast, 4,417; Kansas City, 1,422; and St. Louis, 1,383.

Immature male turkeys, also known as "jakes," made up 26 percent of the 2001 harvest. Hubbard said this confirms surveys indicating strong reproduction last year and is a good sign for next year's turkey season.

"These are the good old days for turkey hunting in Missouri," he said.

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