Bad weather can't stymie Missouri turkey hunting

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Bad weather can't stymie Missouri turkey hunting

By Tim Renken Of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

05/24/2002

Turkey hunters in Missouri have experienced just about every kind of weather during the spring hunt through the years. Snow has even fallen during some spring turkey seasons.

But the gobbler season that ended May 12 will go down as one of the worst weather-wise. In those three weeks some parts of the state got nearly a foot of rain. Day after day was cold and/or windy. Downpour followed downpour. Sitting on the ground, which turkey hunters do a lot, was like sitting in a swamp.

Even small streams were difficult or impossible to cross. Many back-roads were blocked. Hunters had to break up camps because they feared they would be isolated by floods.

Even before the season opened on April 22, the weather was unfavorable for hunters. A cold spring had fouled up the gobbling sequence. In some places birds were still in winter flocks acting as if they knew nothing about sex.

But despite these handicaps, Missouri hunters still managed to kill 53,932 gobblers. That's just 1,370 fewer than the kill last year and 2,902 fewer than the state record for a spring hunt set in 2000.

Are Missouri's turkey hunters that good or is it the quality of the hunting here?

No question, the state has many skilled hunters. Gobbler hunting here goes back 42 years. And because of the way the Department of Conservation manages the flock, the emphasis always has been on gobbling turkeys rather than just on turkeys. Hunters here know how to call birds.

Imported talent also adds to the quality of the hunters here. More than 10,073 non-residents hunted in the state this spring. Missouri has become the place to go for people who are serious about their gobbler hunting. Most professional callers from all over the country come here to hunt along with many of the people who make and sell calls, clothing, decoys, etc.

These people pay $145 for a non-resident permit because Missouri offers the best turkey hunting in the nation. It has a lot of turkeys, a higher percentage of adult gobblers than other big turkey states and a lot of public land, including more than 1.5 million acres of national forest.

Missouri has averaged 57,000 birds in the last three spring kills. Arkansas, by contrast, had 17,603, Illinois 12,840 and Iowa about 21,000.

Texas, twice as big as Missouri, kills half as many turkeys. The only state even close is Mississippi, with about 40,000 during a long spring season.

Mississippi has a great turkey hunting tradition and many expert hunters. But many good hunters from there hunt in Missouri because, they say, the large number of adult gobblers here makes the hunting quality better.

Many hunters are worried that with water standing everywhere the turkey hatch would be poor. Infant turkeys in the nest are vulnerable to long spells of rain and cold.

But Mike Hubbard, the department's turkey biologist, said that it's too early to worry about that possibility. He said that hens whose nests have been wiped out will re-nest.

"Wet weather would have to continue for a few more weeks to influence overall nesting success," he said.
 

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