Spring turkey numbers down in Missouri

Friday, May 15, 2009

The poor reproduction of turkeys over the last five breeding seasons is apparent in the steady decline in the spring turkey harvest since the record year in 2004.

In the spring of 2004, 56,882 turkeys were taken by hunters in Missouri. That is 15,052 birds less than the 41,830 turkeys harvested in 2009. Late freezing weather, cold late rains, floods and downpour rains have shown their effect. Yet, looking nationally, Missouri is still a good place to turkey hunt.

The top three counties in turkey harvest were Franklin with 915, Texas had 839 and St. Clair reported 678. Locally, the 2009/2008 numbers were Carroll Co. 494/521, Chariton 289/323, Cooper 346/373, Howard 296/329, Johnson 516/533, Lafayette 206/252, Pettis 606/581 -- the only county with an increase in our area of the state -- and Saline County 273/282.

The number of turkey hunting-related incidents increased by one this year. Unfortunately, that increase was a self-inflicted fatal incident which occurred as the victim pulled a loaded gun from the vehicle. Non-fatal incidents remained the same as last year with three. Two were victims mistaken for game and one in which the shooter shot at movement.

While mandatory hunter education has decreased the number of hunting incidents dramatically and turkey hunting is a relatively safe activity, we still have room for improvement. Any incidents are too many, especially having loaded firearms in vehicles, mistaking people for game and shooting a movement.

If you are a hunter who would like to become a more effective wing shooter using non-toxic shot or who would just like to practice using ammunition furnished by someone else, as they say, have I got a deal for you.

The Missouri Department of Conservation will be hosting a Cooperative North American Shotgunning Education Program in the classroom at the Saline County Justice Facility in Marshall from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Friday, June 5th, and at in the shooting portion of Blind Pony Lake Conservation Area on Saturday, June 6th, and Sunday, June 7th, from 9 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. both days.

Attendance at the evening seminar (70 student limit) is required for the shooting portion (40 student limit). Students, bring your own hunting shotgun and the MDC will furnish ammunition, clay targets and lunch. Registration for the course is required at (573) 884-6861.

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