Rain helps hold down number of gobblers killed
Weather during the first weekend of Missouri's spring turkey season was foul for the second year in a row, and for the second year in a row the first-week turkey harvest was down.
Hunters checked 24,748 turkeys April 24 through 30. That is down 1,238 or 5 percent from last year.
The record first-week harvest occurred in 2004, when hunters checked 29,018 turkeys.
Top first-week turkey harvest counties were Callaway and Franklin with 476 each, St. Genevieve with 460 and Texas with 456. Regional harvest totals were: Central, 4,008; Northeast, 3,684, Southwest, 3,258; Ozark, 3,066; Kansas City, 3,061; Northwest, 2,940; Southeast, 2,629; St. Louis, 2,103. Juvenile male turkeys made up 20 percent of the first-week harvest.
Historically, the first week of the three-week season has accounted for approximately half of the total spring harvest. Hunters usually check 15 to 17 percent of the season total on opening day.
This year's opening-day harvest was 8,860. Based on these past trends, Conservation Resource Scientist Jeff Beringer said this year's harvest could be between 46,000 and 52,000 birds.
Beringer predicted a below-average harvest before this year's season opened.
He made the same prediction last year based on the same factor-below-average turkey reproduction from 2003 through 2005.
Weather also might have held down both the 2005 and 2006 opening week turkey harvests. Hunters encountered hard frosts, high winds and heavy rain during the first weekend of the 2005 spring turkey season.
This year rain fell almost nonstop over much of the state during the first weekend of the season.
Missouri's spring turkey season opens on the Monday nearest to April 21 each year. The Monday opener limits the number of hunters who can be in the woods on opening day. By the time the first weekend of the season rolls around, thousands of hunters (almost 19,000 this year) already have killed turkeys and can not legally kill another gobbler until the following Monday.
This arrangement spreads out hunting pressure over the first week of the season.
It also improves the quality of hunting while reducing the chances of hunting accidents by making the state's turkey woods less crowded.