May 9, 2002

First-week turkey harvest down from 2001

The number of gobblers bagged in the first seven days of spring turkey season was down in spite of a strong showing on opening day.



JEFFERSON CITY -- A cold, wet weekend put a damper on turkey hunters' success, holding the harvest during the first week of Missouri's spring hunting season nearly 1,000 birds below last year's figure.

Check stations statewide processed 27,943 turkeys April 22 through 28. That is down 933 from last year and 2,497 fewer than the first-week harvest record set in 2000.

The drop in first-week harvest followed a record-breaking turkey kill on opening morning. Hunters bagged 1,285 more birds on opening day this year than they did a year earlier. The 2002 opener topped the previous record, set in 2000, by 401 birds.

In contrast to weather on this year's opening day, which was ideal for turkey hunting, the weekend was cold, rainy and windy.

"Any one of these factors can make hunting tough," said Missouri Department of Conservation Wildlife Research Biologist Mike Hubbard. "Having all three in one weekend is bound to have a significant effect on hunters' success."

Hubbard said that while the first-week harvest is likely to prevent the 2002 harvest from setting a record, it still is an enviable figure.

"It's no accident that Missouri attracts turkey hunters from all over the country, he said. "We have a tremendous turkey population and excellent hunting almost everywhere in the state. We're still headed for a likely turkey harvest in the neighborhood of 52,000. It's hard to find bad news in that scenario."

The Conservation Department recorded six firearms-related hunting accidents during the first week of turkey season. That is one fewer than last year and well below the long-term average.

Texas County led the state with 673 birds checked during the first week of the season. Franklin County was second with 569, and Laclede County was third with 549. The state's west-central region led regional harvest totals with 4,471. That is 311 more than last year. Other regional totals were: northeast, 3,927 (-1,083); northwest, 3,584 (-530); east-central, 3,538 (+115); southeast, 2,884 (+316); southwest, 2,832(+256); central, 2,698 (-549); Ozark, 2,638 (+215); St. Louis, 718 (+58); and Kansas City, 653 (-42).

Spring turkey season continues through May 12.

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