Turkey hunters will take to the woods Monday for the opening day of the spring season, which runs through May 9.
Resource Scientist Tom Dailey is the Missouri Department of Conservation’s turkey specialist. He says he expects this year’s spring turkey harvest to be approximately 44,000, about the same as last year. Texas County consistently ranks as one of the top turkey harvest counties in the state.
He bases his predictions on fieldwork conducted each summer and fall. Summer observations involve hens and the number of young turkeys (poults) with them. The resulting poult-to-hen ratio produces an early snapshot of wild turkeys’ nesting success.
The fall turkey abundance index comes from archery deer and turkey hunters who report the number of turkeys they see and how many hours they spend hunting. Comparing the number of turkeys seen per 1,000 hours afield from year to year gives Dailey an idea of how many turkeys Missouri has going into winter.
The larger a particular year’s poult-to-hen ratio, the better the nesting success. From the 1950s through the 1970s, when Missouri’s turkey flock was expanding rapidly, annual poult-to-hen ratios of more than 2 were common. However, as turkeys occupied available habitat, the average ratio gradually declined. Today, ratios of 1.5 to 2 poults per hen are considered good.
Permit requirements, bag limits and other regulations are summarized in the 2010 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, which is available wherever hunting permits are sold, or online at mdc.mo.gov/hunt/turkey/sprturk/.