Preliminary data from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) shows that hunters checked 2,899 turkeys during Missouri’s fall firearms turkey season, Oct. 1-31. Top harvest counties were Greene with 100, Texas with 95, and Dent with 94. Last year’s fall firearms turkey harvest total was 3,698.
MDC’s turkey biologist says this year’s low fall firearms turkey harvest total can be attributed to several factors, including a poor turkey hatch, a decline in hunter participation, and above-average acorn production.
“As was the case last year, this year’s turkey hatch was exceptionally poor, so there were far fewer young birds for hunters to pursue this fall,” said MDC Turkey Biologist Jason Isabelle. “Young turkeys are typically the most easily lured into hunters’ calls, so poor production made for some challenging hunting this fall.”
The poor hatch wasn’t the only thing that contributed to this year’s low fall firearms turkey harvest. Isabelle noted that participation in the fall firearms turkey season has been declining in Missouri, as it has in a number of states.
“This year’s fall firearms turkey permit sales total of 10,243 was the lowest on record since the season started in 1978,” Isabelle said. “During our peak year in 1987, nearly 53,000 permits were purchased.”
Another factor that impacted this year’s fall turkey harvest was the good acorn crop throughout much of the state, which typically results in fewer turkeys being taken. Isabelle explained that when acorns are abundant, turkeys don’t have to range far to locate food, and spend less time in open fields where they’re more visible to hunters.
For several years prior to 2016, production had been considerably better than the poor hatches that plagued the state’s turkey population in the late 2000s. However, 2017 marks the second year of poor turkey hatches in Missouri.
“Poor production the past couple years has certainly been a setback, but we’ve dealt with periods of poor production before,” said Isabelle. “Turkeys can make a fairly quick rebound with a couple years of good production. I’m hoping that the 2018 hatch will get us started back in the right direction.”
Fall archery turkey hunting continues through Nov. 10 and then resumes again from Nov. 22 through Jan. 15, 2018.