The Missouri Formula for Turkeys

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Published on: Apr. 2, 2005

Last revision: Nov. 17, 2010

MISSOURI has a long-standing turkey hunting tradition. We were one of the first Midwestern states to restore wild turkeys after years of habitat degradation by early settlers and overexploitation by poachers and market hunters.

Restoration efforts began in 1954 and were complete by 1979. After turkeys were restored in Missouri, their offspring were used to re-establish wild populations throughout the Midwest.

Recently Missouri has topped the charts in turkey harvest and projected turkey populations. Based on the most recent spring turkey harvest, we likely have between 600,000 and 800,000 turkeys in Missouri. Interest in turkey hunting also is growing, and groups like the George Clark Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation continue to contribute funds to habitat management practices that enhance Missouri's turkey resource.

A combination of biological and social factors contribute to Missouri's strong turkey population and high quality hunting. We have almost continuous turkey habitat from north to south. Many states have areas or regions that provide a mix of woodlands and agriculture, but they also have areas without any forests. Some have extreme winter conditions that limit turkey populations.

In addition, we have formulated regulations to provide ample hunting and viewing opportunity without impacting population growth. For example, our weekday opener spreads hunting pressure. Limiting hunters to one bird the first week in the spring enables weekend hunters to hunt without interference from hunters that have already taken a bird.

The Department also collects good biological information about the state's turkey flock annually from hunters and turkey brood survey cooperators. A number of Missouri turkey research projects have helped unlock the secrets of turkey movements and survival. While all of these combined factors make a strong turkey population, harvest management that maintains a large, adult gobbler population results in high hunter satisfaction.

Protecting the Flock

Since the first "modern" turkey season in 1960, in which 698 hunters killed 94 turkeys over three days in 14 counties, Missouri has had a tradition of maintaining and enhancing the spring gobbler hunting. The spring season now lasts three weeks. Hunters can take two turkeys, but we still harvest a preponderance of adult gobblers. While populations ebb and flow in relation to good or poor nesting conditions, we have been able to maintain a buffer of adult birds to supplement poor hatches.

Our season timing is the most important reason we continue to have good reproduction and a healthy population of adult gobblers. Early turkey research in the Ozarks

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