MDC Expert Says First-Week Turkey Harvest Encouraging

Robert Arnold bagged one of the 177 Scotland County turkeys checked in during week one of the spring season. His gobbler weighed 18.5 pounds and had 1 3/16" spurs to go along with its four beards.

Robert Arnold bagged one of the 177 Scotland County turkeys checked in during week one of the spring season. His gobbler weighed 18.5 pounds and had 1 3/16″ spurs to go along with its four beards.

Relatively strong harvest numbers from the first week of spring turkey season are encouraging, but Resource Scientist Jason Isabelle says that harvest figures from the entire three weeks of spring turkey hunting will provide a more reliable indicator about the status of Missouri’s wild turkey population.

As leader of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s turkey management program, Isabelle pays close attention to indicators of how the state’s wild-turkey population is doing. The size of the spring turkey harvest is one such indicator.

Hunters checked 22,348 turkeys during the first week of the spring season. That is a 4-percent increase from 2013 and is 7 percent above the previous five-year average. It also is the largest first-week harvest since 2007. Isabelle is pleased with the early uptick in turkey harvest, but he also is a bit cautious about drawing conclusions just yet.

“It’s encouraging to see that Missouri’s spring turkey hunters got off to a good start,” says Isabelle. “Weather conditions during much of the first week were great for hunting, with quite a few really nice mornings. But with only one week of the season and just one weekend, when hunters focus a lot of the effort, it’s difficult to tell how much of the increase might be due to gains in turkey numbers versus weather conditions during that relatively short time period. The season total will paint a more accurate picture.”

Top turkey-harvest counties in the first week of the season were Franklin with 504 birds checked, Texas with 451 and Callaway with 394. The season continues through May 11.

Scotland County hunters checked in 177 birds from April 22 through April 28th, That total included 155 adult gobblers, just one bearded hen, and 21 jakes. Knox County hunters checked in 189 birds, while Clark County totaled 159 turkeys and Schuyler County managed just 119.

Six of eight first-week regional harvest totals were up compared to last year. Those were Central 3,503 (up 6 percent), Kansas City 2,559 (up 4 percent), Northeast 2,725 (up 5 percent), Northwest 2,537 (up 12 percent), Ozark 2,990 (up 6 percent), and Southwest 3,774 (up 13 percent). Opening-week harvests were down in the Southeast 2,434 (down 8 percent) and St. Louis 1,831 (down 9 percent) regions.

The Conservation Department recorded three firearms-related turkey hunting incidents during the first week of the season. Two involved hunters who mistook other hunters for turkeys. The victim in the third incident was between the shooter and a turkey and was caught in the line of fire. The shooters’ ages ranged from 42 to 64. In two of the incidents, the shooter and victim were hunting together but had separated.

Isabelle said these three incidents illustrate some of the most frequent causes of firearms related turkey-hunting injuries.

“We could drastically reduce the number of incidents if hunters would always positively identify their target, if they made sure of what was between and beyond them and their target, and if they would stay together when hunting in pairs or at least always know where their hunting partner was going to be,” he said.

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