Missouri Department of Conservation forecasts challenging spring turkey hunting

Wild Turkeys In A Field

Missouri turkey hunters can expect a challenging spring season according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). The spring turkey hunting season starts with a youth-only weekend April 4 and 5 followed by the regular spring season April 20 through May 10.

MDC Turkey Biologist Reina Tyl expects spring turkey hunting to be challenging. “A great deal of what makes for a good spring turkey season depends on the hatch two years prior because it affects the number of two-year-old gobblers on the landscape,” Tyl said. “These young gobblers are not associated with hens as often as older, more dominant birds and are the most likely to respond to hunters’ calls.”

Poor production statewide during 2018 will result in fewer two-year-old gobblers available for harvest during this year’s spring hunting season. Tyl added that in 2018, the best production at the regional scale occurred in the northern half of the state. This could potentially translate to relatively more two-year-old gobblers on the landscape north of the Missouri River.

Considering the prospects for the 2020 spring season, hunters should be prepared to put in a bit more effort to be successful this year.

“When turkey numbers are down, it becomes even more important to spend time scouting for flocks before the start of the season,” said Tyl. “Hunters should get out to their hunting areas as much as possible to listen for birds gobbling at daybreak.”

Tyl noted that hunters should also take the time to learn where turkeys are spending most of their time after they fly down from the roost.  “Use binoculars to spot turkeys feeding in open areas or look for signs of where turkeys have been feeding in the timber,” she said. “This will help hunters be in the right area when the hunting season gets here.”

Although the prospects for this year’s spring season aren’t encouraging, this isn’t the first-time poor turkey production has reduced turkey numbers in Missouri. After reaching a population peak in the early-to-mid 2000s, Missouri’s turkey population experienced four years of poor production from 2007–2010, causing the population to decline. However, Tyl noted that turkey numbers rebounded following several years of improved production.

“In much of the state, we observed improved production during 2011, 2012, and 2014,” said Tyl. “As a result, turkey numbers increased, and hunters generally had better hunting seasons in the years that followed. We are again in a period of poor production and lower turkey abundance, We can expect to see the effects on harvest for several years until production improves and turkey numbers rebound.”