With 45,400 turkeys in the bag and a week of spring turkey season still ahead, Missouri hunters are on pace to set a new turkey harvest record.
This year's two-week harvest total is 882 more than were taken during the same period last year. Adding the 3,660 turkeys taken during the two-day youth season in April brings the 2003 spring harvest to date to 49,060. That is up 1,440 from last year.
This year's harvest has included relatively few "jakes," as year-old turkeys are known. This is evidence that last year's turkey hatch was below average.
"We are on track for another strong harvest," said Wildlife Research Biologist Jeff Beringer. "Despite lower jake numbers, our conservative season structure and limits have likely resulted in a buffer of adult birds that enable our hunters to maintain fairly stable statewide harvests."
Besides recreation and food on the table, Missouri's spring turkey season produces a significant boost to the state economy. So far this year, more than 9,000 people from other states have spent more than $1.3 million on nonresident permits. Out-of-state hunters also pump money into Missouri's economy with expenditures for fuel, food, lodging, guides and other goods and services and pay state and local sales tax on their purchases.
Top harvest counties so far are Texas, with 1,077 turkeys checked, Laclede with 974 and Howell with 902. Regional harvest totals were: Ozark, 6,760; Central, 6,570; Northwest, 6,399; Northeast, 6,396; Southwest, 5,593; Kansas City, 5,425, Southeast, 4,747; and St. Louis, 3,510.
The Conservation Depart-ment received reports of three firearms-related turkey hunting accidents, none fatal, during the first two weeks of the season. That is down from seven last year and nine in 2001. The safest season on record was 2000, when only two accidents were reported in the first two weeks of spring turkey season.