Missouri biologists are optimistic about the state’s upcoming spring turkey season, and they say hunters should be too. According to Missouri Department of Conservation resource scientist Jason Isabelle, who is in charge of the turkey-management program, strong reproduction rates in 2011 and 2012 should translate to a healthy number of young gobblers this season.
“We’ve seen some very good production for the last three years in the eastern Ozarks,” Isabelle said. “This good production should translate into some great hunting opportunities. Another region of the state where I expect to see an increase in harvest is the Ozark border, including counties like Cedar, St. Clair, Hickory, Polk, Christian, and Webster.”
Wild turkey production did take a dip last year, and Isabelle speculated that hunters will be seeing fewer jakes this spring. On a brighter note, however, the biologist said 2014’s harsh winter likely will have a minimal effect on turkey hunting.
“I don’t think that the conditions we experienced this winter negatively affected turkey survival,” Isabelle said. “Turkeys can deal with cold weather quite well. Although we did get a few snow storms, none of the totals that we saw or the length of time that snow conditions persisted were severe enough to negatively impact turkey survival.”
This year’s spring season will run from April 21 through May 11. The youth season will occur on April 12 and 13. Since Missouri’s spring turkey season always starts on the third Monday of April, this year’s season opener will be later than usual.
“We understand that many hunters prefer an early spring season, so our goal is to balance the desires of hunters with the biology of the bird,” he said. “We want hunters to have a great experience, but we also want to make sure that the bulk of our hens are bred, and a portion of them nesting, before the season starts,”
Also new this year is the addition of crossbows and atlatls—spear throwers—to the season. Atlatls are wooden shafts generally with a cup or socket on one end, which is used to propel a four- to six-inch spear or dart through angular momentum. These primitive weapons actually predate the bow and arrow, although they have a shorter range and can be harder to master. Atlatls are seeing a rising resurgence in use among hunters and many states are considering allowing their use to harvest big game. Missouri recorded the first white-tailed buck to be taken by atlatl back in 2011.
Image courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation