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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Outlook for Missouri spring turkey season is encouraging

Thursday, May 9, 2002

Where do you go from "phenomenal"? In the case of Missouri turkey hunting, you go to "phenomenal again."Mike Hubbard, turkey biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, says Show-Me State turkey hunters are headed for another terrific spring turkey hunting season. He said this year's spring turkey harvest should rival last year's record-setting harvest of 57,842 birds unless bad weather cuts into hunter success."If we have a nice, warm spell right about now, it could be phenomenal," said Hubbard.Weather always is a key factor in spring turkey hunter's success. "When we have warm, fair weather, hunters spend more time in the woods, and the harvest is good," said Hubbard. "When it's rainy and windy, people don't hunt as often or as long, so they naturally don't kill as many birds."Aside from changeable spring weather, everything looks great for spring turkey season. Hubbard said turkey reproduction was just slightly less than average last year. "That's actually really good," he said. "With a statewide flock of 550,000 birds, it would take several years in a row of terrible reproduction before hunters would notice a difference."That certainly hasn't been the case in recent years. Two years ago turkeys had an excellent year for nesting, and the year before that nest success was 20 to 25 percent above the long-term average. Hubbard says the ample 1999 crop of turkeys ensures that hunters will find lots of big mature gobblers roaming the woods this year.According to Hubbard, turkey reproduction was best in the eastern Ozarks last year. Hunters there will find lots of young, inexperienced male turkeys, called "jakes."Last year's turkey crop was not quite as good as north of the Missouri River and in the state's western prairie region. Nest success there was off due to cold, wet weather in early June. The two-week spell of unseasonable weather cut nest success from 2.3 poults (young turkey hatchlings) per nest in 2000 to 2.1 in 2001. Hubbard said that is not enough to make a noticeable difference for most hunters.Hubbard said weather to date has been fairly average, although it might not seem so. He said spring has come early the past two years, causing trees to leaf out and promoting male turkeys to begin gobbling early. He said continued average weather should put hunters in the woods right when they should be."If the weather doesn't turn cold and rainy, we ought to have a tremendous turkey season again this year," he said.The Conservation Department sold 117,736 turkey hunting permits last year. Approximately four out of every 10 hunters bagged at least one gobbler. Last year, 14,600 Missourians age 15 and younger took part in a Youth Spring Turkey Season. They killed 2,530 birds during the two-day season, which was the first of its kind in Missouri.The totals from the first week of the 2002 season reflect a slight decrease from last year's opening week totals.A total of 27,943 birds (20,840 adults, and 7,103 juveniles) represent a decrease of 933 birds from the opening week of 2001.There were six nonfatal hunting accidents reported statewide, with no fatalities.High counties for the state were Texas with 673 birds, Franklin with 569 and Laclede with 549.Totals for the counties in the Ozark region; Oregon 268, Howell 492, Carter 131, Douglas 185, Ozark 187, Ripley 207, Shannon 225 and Wright 270.

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