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It’s turkey season in Missouri. Biologist says turkey populations are down, but hunters shouldn’t worry about the season

 A Missouri turkey was photographed by the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Courtesy Missouri Department of Conservation
A Missouri turkey was photographed by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

The arrival of spring is an exciting time for avid hunters and outdoor-lovers throughout the Ozarks — and today is the start of Missouri turkey season.

In recent years, Missouri turkey populations have seen a slight decline. There are several reasons, says Jason Isabell with the Department of Conservation.

Isabell says, “There was a very intensive trap-and-transfer program where turkeys were captured where they existed down in the Ozarks, and they were released at a number of release sites across the state. After that happened, the population grew really quickly and probably reached levels that were above the levels that we could sustain long-term. Part of it, I think, is an artificial bump in numbers as a result of the restoration effort.”

Isabell also said other factors are at play, like cool, rainy weather into the late spring — which is when turkeys are mating — as well as a slight increase in turkey predators.

He says turkey-hunters should expect to see more stable population numbers going forward because Missouri government and the public are taking some new steps.

“A couple of ongoing projects right now that are trying to answer some of these questions in terms of what is causing the low turkey production. [We will] soon be initiating a turkey habitat initiative, where we will be working [with] public land partners and private landowners to try to help folks understand what quality turkey-nesting and brooding habitat look like, and how to create it, and what some of the options for assistance are. And so, I think this is easily the most important thing that hunters and landowners can do to help turkeys, would be to create as much as high-quality nesting as they can.”

Isabell also shared a few tips for those who plan to go to the woods the next few weeks in hopes of bagging a turkey.

He says hunters should use the full season the state allows. Think about hunting later in the day, or later in the season, when most hunters have called it quits.

Spring turkey season in Missouri runs from April 17 to May 7.