Favorable weather contributed to a larger-than-expected harvest during the first week of Missouri's spring turkey hunting season.
Hunters checked 21,717 turkeys during the first week of the 21-day spring turkey season.
That is 591 (2.7 percent) fewer than last year's first-week harvest.
The pace set in the first week is faster than anticipated by resource scientist Tom Dailey, but he says he does not expect that pace to continue.
Dailey is the Missouri Department of Conservation's lead turkey biologist.
Before the spring turkey season opened on April 20, he predicted this year's harvest would be approximately 40,000, a decrease of 13 percent from last year.
He attributes turkey hunters' strong initial showing to good weather and says he is sticking with his original prediction.
"It was a little windy at times during that first week, but there wasn't much rain, and the temperatures were very comfortable," said Dailey. "That sort of weather encourages hunters to spend lots of time outdoors, and that translates into increased harvest."
Dailey noted that the percentage of juvenile male turkeys in the first-week harvest was up -- 20 percent compared to 16 percent last year. He said harvest data show that the first-week harvest in some counties included as much as 40 percent juveniles, also known as "jakes."
"I can't be sure if that means there are more young birds out there than we thought, or if hunters are shooting more jakes because that's all they are seeing," said Dailey. "We had a good first week, but I think the pace is going to drop off during the second and third weeks of the season. We might see 42,000 or 43,000 birds checked, but I am sticking with my prediction that the harvest will be down at the end of the season."
Top harvest counties for the first week were Franklin (453), Texas (440) and Callaway (358).
The Conservation Department received reports of three firearms-related turkey hunting incidents during the first week of the season. None was fatal.
The agency recorded three nonfatal incidents during the entire 2008 spring turkey season, and only two in 2007.
The spring turkey season runs through May 10.