Mo. spring turkey harvest up slightly

Friday, May 13, 2016


Outdoors Editor

Despite what seemed like a particularly tough season in places, Missouri's hunters managed to kill 44,187 birds during the 21-day spring turkey season, which ended Sunday afternoon.

That total represents a tiny increase from last year's 43,911 birds and is the largest harvest since 2007, when 44,945 turkeys were taken. The record harvest came in 2004, when 56,882 birds were killed.

"It really was about what I expected," said Missouri Department of Conservation Resource Scientist Jason Isabelle. "I expected maybe a small bump."

The weather, overall, was good throughout the season, except for the second Saturday.

"By and large, it was a great season weather-wise, but bad weather the second weekend probably hurt the harvest," Isabelle said.

The final harvest numbers in the Ozarks Region include 243 birds in Carter County, down slightly from 267 last year, and 310 in Ripley County, up from 305 a year ago.

In the Southeast Region, Wayne County led the way in our reader area with an even 500 birds taken. That was a significant increase from the 412 birds hunters took there last year.

In Butler County, the kill total was 165, down from the 179 taken there during the 2015 season.

In Stoddard County, hunters killed 214 gobblers. Last year in the same county, they harvested 192 birds.

Dunklin County, with much less turkey habitat, had a final harvest of 10 birds. That's down from the 13 taken there last year.

Four bearded hens were recorded locally, including one in Butler County, one in Carter County and two in Wayne County.

The top counties in the state were Franklin with 961 birds taken, St. Clair with 878 and Texas with 861.

According to Missouri Department of Conservation spokesman Joe Jerek, no hunting accidents were recorded over the course of the season, a really good thing.

Even late into the season, eyewitness accounts reported, and personal experience showed, many gobblers remained with hens well up into the mornings, making them less responsive to calling.

"I heard from a lot of hunters about birds not gobbling for them," said Isabelle. "In fact, I'd say this year, I heard from more people with similar reports (of unresponsive birds) than ever."

That wasn't always the case, though. I finally killed a solo 2-year-old gobbler Thursday morning before work, and he actually gobbled pretty well for a change. Two days earlier, the same bird was with two hens in a field mid-morning, and he never strutted or gobbled at all.

And then there's this -- something which may have been a reason why birds gobbled so sporadically during the season in places: some poults already have hatched, weeks ahead of the normal time frame.

Tanner Canoy and I were trolling through some timber on the season's final morning, and as we came around a corner in the road, we flushed a hen at about five yards. She feigned an injury as she squawked at us from about 50 yards away, and the weeds where she'd flown from came alive. Hidden in there were three poults not more than 4 inches tall and very likely less than a week old.

Given the age of the poults, and the fact a hen sits on her nest for 28 days, that means she had to be sitting full-time since early April. That makes me think, in that area of Butler County at least, things were long over before they even began.

By the way, we took a quick photo of one of the poults and quickly left the area so the momma hen could rejoin her young. And don't fret about her "abandoning" them because we touched one. That's an old wive's tale that really needs to die because there's no biological truth to it at all. The real threat to those poults is the young bobcat, which approached within 10 feet of me a few days before.

(By the way, part two: Greg Hall found a newborn fawn about two weeks ago, also way earlier than normal. Most typically are born in late May or early June.)

Jakes made up 18 percent of the overall harvest this spring, Isabelle said, when they typically are about 25 percent of the total. That, he said, reflects the slightly lower hatch success last spring across the state. It also points to a potentially tougher season next spring.

"Next year could be a little more lean, based on last year's reproduction," Isabelle said.

That, of course, will vary by location.

So now, it's fishing time until another hunting season opens. The next hunting season will be the one for squirrels (and there seem to be more than enough of them around this spring), which opens May 28.

Good Fishing

The crappie fishing at Wappapello Lake may not be stellar at the moment, but fishing for other species might be making up for it.

"The catfish and bluegills are doing extremely well," said Dallas Rich at Chaonia Landing.

The catfish are "really full of eggs," he said, and folks have been catching them near the creek channel in the daytime and on the mud flats in the evenings. Cut shad has been the go-to bait.

Bluegills should be gearing up for their first spawn, which likely will peak during the next full moon. Lately, crickets and worms fished about 8 inches deep near rocky shorelines have been the ticket to success.

Rich noted several bass caught in the last week had bloody tails, a sure sign the males have been clearing out nests in the substrate.

After the females deposit their eggs, the males will remain at the nest to guard the young so it's important not to put too much pressure on them at that time.

Catching white bass in the lake has been somewhat challenging, Rich said. The fish still appear to be well north on their spawning run.

Archery Shoot

The Indian Creek Bowhunters will host another 3-D archery shoot this weekend, with shooting to start at 8 a.m. Saturday.

You can register and shoot any time between then and noon.

As always, the course will consist of 20 lifelike targets set in realistic hunting scenarios.

All the club's shoots are open to the public and instruction for beginners always is available at no charge.

The cost to shoot will be $15 if you want to compete in the trophy class, or $10 for fun-class shooters. Children age 12 and under always shoot for free.

Any kind of bow is welcome, as long as you're shooting field points on your arrows.

ASA scoring (12-ring) will be used on all targets.

To get to the shoot, take Highway NN north from Business Highway 60, east of Poplar Bluff, to County Road 546. The range is located about one mile down that road, past the Poplar Bluff Gun Club.

For more information, call Tony Harwell at 573-718-7135 or Brad Massey at 573-785-0647.

Top Shots

Congratulations go to Corning, Ark.'s junior and senior high trap teams for their strong showings at the April 29-30 east regional qualifier of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program.

The junior high's squad Nos. 2, 3 and 1 took the top three spots in the competition, and squad four took 10th place. According to coach Jim Clifton, about 100 teams competed in the junior high division.

Squad No. 2, in first place, consists of Katie Clifton, Emma Russom, Beau Young, Clay Smith and David Ladd.

Squad No. 3, in second place, has Hannah Blankenship, Weston Horner, Matthew Bippus, Jared Selig and Brydon Hewett on it.

In third place, squad No. 1 consists of Garrett Bippus, Ty Bippus, Clayton Kemp, Dalton Thompson and Dylan Wheeler. Kemp also was one of only two shooters to shoot a perfect score of 25.

The high school's squad No. 2 earned a third-place showing out of about 125 teams in its division, and includes shooters Dalton Price, Chandler Conyers, Ryan Curtis, Joey Bradish and Riley George.

Other Corning squads also competed, and in the end, eight of them made the cut for the state championship tournament, to be held June 3-4.

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