JEFFERSON CITY–Missouri hunters shot more turkeys during the first week of the spring hunting season than they did during the same period last year. This is the first increase since 2004.
This year’s first-week harvest of 21,765 represents a 15.8 percent increase from 2011. It also is 2.1 percent more than the previous five-year average. Top counties were Franklin with 467 turkeys checked, Ste. Genevieve with 439 and Texas with 433.
Scotland County hunters checked in 162 turkeys, including 127 adult gobblers, 32 jakes and three bearded hens. That total was tops in the area, besting Clark (135), Knox (149), Schuyler (96), Lewis (113) and Putnam (157) counties. Adair County hunters bagged 202 turkeys in the first week.
Resource Scientist Jason Isabelle supervises wild-turkey management for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). He says the increase is in large part due to the good hatch that was observed throughout much of Missouri in 2011. He notes that jakes, as one-year-old male turkeys are commonly known, made up 26.4 percent of this year’s first-week harvest. That is a substantial increase from last year.
“Hunters checked 5,748 jakes during the first week of the season,” says Isabelle. “That is a 61-percent increase from 2011. The number of mature gobblers in the harvest was only up by about 800 birds, so birds hatched last year accounted for nearly three-quarters of the harvest increase.”
Isabelle says weather, which can significantly influence turkey harvest, probably was a wash during the first week of Missouri’s 21-day spring turkey season. The week included some rain and wind, which typically reduces hunter success, but these conditions were interspersed with ideal hunting weather.
First-week harvest figures were up in all eight regions of the state, ranging from an increase of 11.3 percent in the Central Region to 21.3 percent in the Ozark Region.
Isabelle says he is hoping that Missouri’s weather will remain favorable for turkey nesting for the next two months. Good nesting and brood-rearing conditions could enable the state’s turkey flock to build on gains made last year.
Missouri hunters also had an above-average first week in terms of safety. MDC recorded two firearms-related hunting incidents, compared to an average of 3.4 over the past 10 years.