First-day Turkey Harvest Tops 2007 Figure

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With better weather, hunters checked 17 percent more turkeys on the first day of the spring hunting season than they did last year.

JEFFERSON CITY-Flawless weather permitted hunters to shoot 7,004 turkeys on the opening day of Missouri’s three-week spring turkey season, setting the stage for another strong turkey harvest.

The opening-day harvest was 17 percent larger than last year, when a late freeze set back turkey mating and nesting behavior by weeks. Hunters checked just 6,010 birds on opening day of the 2007 spring turkey season.

Nevertheless, this year’s first-day harvest still was lower than in other recent years. Resource Scientist Tom Dailey, the Missouri Department of Conservation’s turkey expert, said this reflects the poor nesting success the Show-Me State’s turkey flock experienced in 2007.

“The severe cold weather really cut into production last year,” said Dailey. “You can see it in the percentage of young birds in the opening-day harvest. One-year-old male turkeys accounted for 14.5 percent of the birds shot the first day of this year’s season. In contrast, we normally expect jakes to make up more than 20 percent of the harvest. They have accounted for 22 percent of the total spring harvest in the past two years.”

Dailey noted that turkeys are prolific breeders and can quickly make up lost ground when favorable nesting conditions return. He said he hopes that will happen this year.

“So far, it looks really good,” said Dailey. “If we have normal temperatures and rainfall, we could see a significant rebound in turkey numbers this year.”

Top counties for opening-day turkey harvest were Franklin with 159 birds checked, Callaway with 151 and Ste. Genevieve with 132.

Missouri’s spring turkey season continues through May 11. Hunters are allowed to take one bearded turkey during the first week of the season and one per day during the remainder of the season, up to a season limit of two. Details of hunting regulations are found in the 2008 Spring Turkey Hunting Information booklet, which is available wherever hunting permits are sold or online at www.mdc.mo.gov/793.

The Conservation Department recorded one firearms-related hunting accident on opening day.

-Jim Low-