Preliminary data from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) shows that hunters checked 2,169 turkeys during Missouri’s fall firearms turkey season, Oct. 1-31. Top harvest counties were Greene with 57, Henry with 48, and Laclede with 47. Last year’s fall firearms turkey harvest total was 2,899.
MDC’s turkey biologist says the low harvest total can be attributed to several years of poor hatches.
“We had really poor production in 2016 and 2017, which resulted in lower turkey numbers across the state,” said MDC Turkey Biologist Jason Isabelle. “Unfortunately, on top of those two bad hatches, production was down again this year, so the drop in harvest this fall certainly wasn’t unexpected.”
Another factor that has resulted in lower fall turkey harvests is declining hunter participation. This year, 10,262 fall firearms turkey hunting permits were purchased. During the peak year of 1987, nearly 53,000 permits were purchased. Missouri has seen a declining interest in fall firearms turkey season as have other states.
Isabelle attributes the bulk of this declining interest to the popularity of archery season. “Each year we continue to see more and more hunters participating in the archery deer and turkey season,” said Isabelle. “Rather than carry a shotgun in the woods in October, I think a lot of hunters are now carrying a bow.”
Despite the low harvest and participation numbers, Missouri’s fall firearms turkey season provides hunters with ample time to spend in the setting of the state’s beautiful fall woods, and there are hunters who enjoy the fall experience just as much as the spring.
“Fall turkey hunting can be pretty exciting,” Isabelle said. “Having a scattered flock of turkeys respond to your calls from all directions is an incredible experience.”
Fall archery turkey hunting continues through Nov. 9 and resumes from Nov. 21 through Jan. 15, 2019. For fall firearms turkey harvest results by county, go online to MDC’s website at http://on.mo.gov/1jjz7Ew.