Wonderful weather and an uptick in statewide turkey population helped young hunters to a successful youth spring turkey hunt.
Each year, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) sets aside a weekend before the main, three-week spring turkey season for hunters age 6 through 15. The early date sometimes means youngsters must hunt in chilly weather. That has not been the case for the past two years, and it certainly wasn’t this year, with high temperatures pushing into the 80s across most of the state. Rain wasn’t in the forecast, making conditions perfect for turkey hunting.
Young hunters took advantage of the situation to check 4,319 turkeys, up from 3,898 in 2011. Top harvest counties were Franklin with 119 turkeys checked, Osage with 93 and Callaway with 81.
The youth harvest has increased slowly since youngsters had their first separate hunt in 2001. That year’s total was 2,530. This year’s was the highest so far, up 9.5 percent from the previous high of 3,945 in 2010.
Missouri’s wild turkey flock gained a little ground last year, thanks to favorable nesting and brood-rearing conditions. While this increase and good hunting weather contributed to this year’s harvest, MDC Resource Scientist Jason Isabelle said the increasing popularity of the youth season probably was at least as important a factor.
“The youth hunt is a wonderful opportunity for adults to focus on giving young hunters a good experience,” said Isabelle. “Turkey hunters are passionate about their sport, and they get a lot of satisfaction from sharing it with youngsters. It actually enhances the enjoyment of turkey hunting.”
This year’s youth turkey season started earlier than normal to avoid a conflict with the Easter holiday. The main spring turkey season opens April 16 and runs through May 6. Regulations remain the same as last year with a few exceptions, such as changes that apply to certain conservation areas. For details, see the 2012 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulation and Information booklet, which is available wherever hunting permits are sold or at http://go.usa.gov/EIW.