May 4, 2006

Opening-Day Turkey Harvest Down 23 Percent

The number of turkeys checked by hunters on the first day of the 2006 firearms turkey hunting season dropped by nearly one fourth compared to last year. Missouri Department of Conservation officials are attributing the decrease to poor turkey hatches the past three years.

This year’s first-day harvest was 7,860, down from 10,119 record season in 2004. That is a decrease of 2,259, or 23 percent.

Scotland County hunters weren’t as successful on opening day this year, as just 63 turkeys were checked in on April 24th. That was down five birds from 2005.

The northeast Missouri reporting region was down a total of 128 turkeys over the 15-county region. Ralls County saw the most significant decrease, dropping off 41 from its 2005 harvest totals. After leading the region in 2005, Adair County also saw harvest numbers decline significantly. Macon County topped the region with 145 turkeys checked in, up 25 from the county’s 2005 totals. Monroe County witnessed the biggest increase, jumping up 44 birds to rank second in the region with 121 turkeys checked in.

Clark (-35 to 73), Schuyler (-33 to 42) and Lewis (-7 to 63) counties all witnessed declines while Knox County exactly matched its 2005 harvest totals at 90.

The top opening-day turkey harvest counties were St. Genevieve with 174, Callaway with 167 and Franklin with 161. One-year-old male turkeys, commonly called “jakes,” made up 19 percent of the first-day kill.

Missouri’s spring turkey harvest has set new records 29 of the past 45 years. This was the predictable result of a turkey restoration program that built the state’s turkey flock from a few hundred birds to an estimated 800,000.

The spring harvest topped 50,000 in 1999. Since then it has hovered between 50,000 and 60,000, with an all-time high of 60,744 in 2004. Biologists say this plateau is the result of the state’s turkey population reaching the maximum number the land can support.

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