JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is seeking input from turkey hunters on possible changes to spring and fall wild turkey hunting seasons, including all-day spring hunting and reduced harvest limits for fall seasons.
“In the nearly 20 years since the last significant regulations change for turkey hunting, much has changed for both hunters and wild turkeys,” explained MDC Wild Turkey Biologist Nick Oakley. “Turkey populations across the country and in Missouri have declined, predictably, after a post-restoration boom. Turkey hunting participation, over time, has also declined.”
According to MDC, Missouri’s spring turkey hunting season, specifically the start date, was designed to take place after the peak in turkey breeding had occurred. Additionally, MDC research indicates that the current season structure, combined with the reproductive ecology of turkeys, has resulted in relatively low harvest rates on juvenile and adult gobblers over the years.
“This means that a small increase in the total number of the males harvested each spring would be sustainable,” explained Oakley. “Extending shooting hours during the spring season may expand the opportunity for individuals to take up turkey hunting or offer more time for others to return to the field while maintaining a healthy turkey population.”
Oakley added that MDC is considering changes to fall turkey hunting regulations that aim to balance the wellbeing of the turkey population while trying to maximize hunting opportunities.
“Considering the increase in stakeholder concern over hen harvest in the fall, we are considering several possibilities that may reduce hen harvest while maintaining as much of the fall hunting tradition as possible,” he said. “Information gathered during this input period will be used by MDC as we consider ways to reverse declining hunter participation.”
MDC encourages turkey hunters to go online to mdc.mo.gov/turkey-regs for more information on potential regulation changes and to provide comment. The comment period closes Oct. 6. The webpage also has information on the history and structure of Missouri turkey hunting and possible effects of regulation changes on turkey numbers and hunter opportunities.