Missouri turkeys draw hunters from afar


Mar 11, 2001
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Missouri turkeys draw hunters from afar

What do wildlife managers from Iowa and the quarterback for theChicago Bears have in common? They are among the 10,000 hunters who cometo Missouri each year to take advantage of the best turkey hunting in the nation.

Jim Low, MDC


JEFFERSON CITY -- Chicago Bears Quarterback Jim Miller knows the importance of statistics in evaluating performance. Maybe that's why this spring found him in Missouri, hunting wild turkeys. He was among 10,073 people from all 49 other states who bought nonresident permits for Missouri's spring turkey hunting season April 22 through May 12.

Wild turkeys inhabit all the lower 48 states, yet people come from far and wide to hunt gobblers here. Why are thousands of people willing to pay $145 for Missouri's nonresident spring turkey hunting permits? The factual answer is that Missouri has the best turkey hunting in the nation.

Over the past three years, Missouri's annual spring turkey harvest has averaged more than 57,000 birds. Compare that to Illinois' 2001 spring turkey harvest of 12,840 or Arkansas' 17,603. Oklahoma and Iowa each harvest approximately 21,000 gobblers each spring. Figures for Kansas are hard to come by, but probably run between 15,000 and 20,000. Kentucky hunters took 23,600 gobblers last spring, and Tennessee led Missouri's neighboring states in 2001 spring turkey harvest with 29,185. Nationwide, Missouri's nearest competitor is Mississippi, where hunters bag around 40,000 gobblers each spring. Texas, with nearly four times Missouri's land area, harvested fewer than half as many turkeys as Missouri last year.

Miller and Chicago Bears Defensive Coordinator Greg Blashe came to Missouri to hunt with Mark and Terry Drury of M.A.D. Calls and Drury Outdoors. Their parent company, Outland Sports, headquartered in Neosho, makes turkey calls, hunting videos and other hunting equipment. Blashe, who is a media representative for a firearms manufacturer, met the Drurys at the annual Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show. The show is a national event where outdoor manufacturers pitch their products to retailers. Mark Drury said he routinely brings 10 to 12 outdoor writers to Missouri to turkey hunt each spring. This year, he invited Blashe to sample Missouri's turkey hunting in Adair and Putnam counties.

"I love to bowhunt for white-tailed deer back home in Michigan," said Miller, "but bowhunting is a fall sport, right in the middle of football season, so I don't get to do it much. Greg knows I love to hunt, so he invited me to come along with him to Missouri. When he told me about turkey hunting, I got really excited."

Neither of the football professionals had ever hunted wild turkeys before. Miller said he gave himself a crash course in turkey hunting, learning all he could about how it's done from books and videos in three months. When they headed into the woods at 4:30 on the rainy morning of May 10, he was pumped full of "game-day adrenalin."

They hunted hard throughout the early morning, trying six different spots. Gobblers responded to their calls, but none of the wary birds came close enough for a shot. After breakfast, they went back to the woods and hunted almost until the close of hunting at 1 p.m. "It was as close to fourth quarter, fourth and one as you can get," said Miller. "I killed a 22-pound gobbler with a 12-inch beard just a few minutes before one. It was awesome."

Mark Drury said outdoor writers' reaction to Missouri turkey hunting is similar to Miller's. "These folks get to hunt a lot of camps around the country," he said. "After seeing what we have here, they all want to know 'When can we come back.'"

Armand Labonville owns a retail store that sells logging supplies, outdoor clothing and custom-made turkey calls in Gorham, New Hampshire. He hunted in Missouri for the first time last year and killed his first gobbler. "I've hunted a few times in New Hampshire," said Labonville, "But we don't have as many birds as you do in Missouri. Turkey hunting is still fairly new here. We've only had a season for about three years. I read a lot of outdoor magazines, and when I read about Missouri's turkey hunting, I thought, 'Gee, I'd like to go there one day.'" A business acquaintance from Louisiana invited Labonville to join him for a hunt in Morgan County, Missouri, and he jumped at the chance.

Labonville was so thrilled with the experience that he returned this year with his two teen-aged sons. Rainy, windy weather hampered their four-day hunt, but they got to see gobblers. He says his sons still are talking about the experience. "They totally loved it," he said. "They want to do it again."

Labonville estimates this year's hunting trip to Missouri cost him $3,500.  

Todd Bogenschutz, a biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, lives in Ames, Iowa. Neither the $145 nonresident permit nor the hour-and-a-half drive to northern Missouri were enough to keep him from taking advantage of Missouri's turkey hunting opportunities.

"There's a lot more timber in Missouri than where I usually hunt in Iowa. Here, the patches of timber are much smaller. It's mostly crop land. It's a very different experience hunting big conservation areas in northern Missouri."

Bogenschutz had hunted five days in Missouri when interviewed. Although he hadn't killed a turkey yet, he had been in the midst of a lot of gobbling birds, and hoped to get one during the final weekend of Missouri's three-week season.

Bryan Hellyer is a private lands biologist for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. He lives near the Minnesota border, so northern Missouri is several hours' drive from home for him. He spent nine days hunting at Riverbreaks Conservation Area in Holt County, Missouri this spring. Later he switched to a conservation area and private land in Putnam County.

Hellyer took advantage of Missouri's strong turkey population and his own state's more liberal hunting regulations. In Missouri, turkey hunting ends at 1 p.m. daily. Iowa regulations allow hunters to pursue turkeys all day long, so he hunted in Missouri in the mornings and then crossed the state line for afternoon hunts.

Hellyer killed a 21-pound Missouri gobbler early in the season. Later, he and five others bagged six gobblers on one trip.

"It's great having the option of hunting in Missouri in the morning and going back across the state line to hunt the afternoon," said Hellyer. "I was really impressed with the wildlife management that was going on there. We saw a lot of good wildlife management and worked a lot of turkeys while we were there."

Bob Moors of Bolant, Penn., is president of his home county's chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation. As a result, he was familiar with Missouri's reputation as a wild turkey Mecca. So when his brother moved to the Smithville area, he took the opportunity to travel west and hunt. He killed a mature gobbler early the first morning he hunted. One of the other two Pennsylvanians who came along also bagged a mature gobbler.

"We saw a lot of turkeys," said Moors. "Of course, you have a really great population of turkeys."

Ted Torgerson of Callaway, Minn., says he doesn't mind the trip to Missouri for turkey hunting. He started hunting turkeys here more than 20 years ago. At the time, Minnesota didn't have a turkey season. Even now, Minnesotans aren't guaranteed a chance to hunt wild turkeys. They have to apply for a drawing in one management zone during one of eight five-day segments. In years when he strikes out in the drawing, he comes to Missouri to hunt with his brother.

"We hunt the Corps of Engineers land around Truman Lake and other reservoirs," said Torgerson. "We got skunked this year, but we usually have great luck." Still, he said, the crappie fishing was outstanding, and he went home with memories of exciting close encounters with gobblers.


Turkey hunting brings big bucks to Missouri

Hunters from other states spend millions of dollars on travel, services and equipment to enjoy Missouri's world-class turkey hunting.

Jim Low, MDC


JEFFERSON CITY -- With some Missouri companies laying off employees and state government in a budget crunch, you might think that the outcome of the state's spring turkey season would be of little economic interest. You would be wrong. The lusty cry of the wild turkey gobbler pumps tens of millions of dollars into the state economy each year.

This year, Missourians spent more than $1.6 million on spring turkey hunting permits. More important to Missouri's economic well-being, out-of-state hunters shelled out nearly $1.5 million for Missouri spring turkey hunting permits this year.

The economic impact of turkey hunting goes far beyond permit sales, however. Turkey hunters spend approximately $10 million in Missouri each year for shotguns, ammunition, calls, camouflage clothing and other hunting equipment. Missouri residents also spend more than $10 million on travel, food, lodging and other miscellaneous items during the spring turkey season. Nonresidents add another $2 million-plus. In all, economic activity generated by spring turkey hunters tops $30 million annually and supports 1,100 Missouri jobs.

An economic impact model developed by the University of Missouri-Columbia shows that turkey-hunting related expenditures generate nearly $1.5 million in state sales taxes and about $1 million in state income taxes annually. The figures on hunter expenses come from a Missouri Department of Conservation survey of approximately 5,000 turkey hunters. Hunters provided details on turkey hunting related expenses for clothing, calls, ammunition, guns, transportation, lodging, food, land leases, taxidermy and other items.


Aug 16, 2001
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 Wow,I thought we got more non residents than that each year,of course its getting harder to find private land to hunt,Federal land fills up fast and them birds are really tough,it seems that if you call they answer but Run the other way.
 When Bowhunting in the fall i can see turkeys almost everyday,i have seen feilds black with birds in the fall when they bunch up for winter.I didnt realize that we bag more birds than anyone else though,I thought it was Alabama in the harvest lead.

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