Letter to the Editor

MDC should take bold action to save turkey population

Friday, May 14, 2021

Letter to Editor

The 2021 spring turkey hunting season has ended in Missouri. Those of us who enjoy hunting gobblers in the spring have noticed a disturbing trend. In much of Missouri, the turkey population has declined and in some areas it has crashed.

So far, Missouri Department of Conservationís response has been to continue seasons and limits as if nothing is happening. Although admitting that the population is in serious decline since 2004, MDC has continued seasons and limits the same. They automatically approve the regulations each year.

MDC has chosen to do a turkey study in north Missouri to determine the reason for the decline. Most people are aware that there is little similarity in habitat comparing north and south Missouri. Also, there is a considerable difference in hunting pressure between north and south Missouri. North Missouri is mostly private land with controlled hunting pressure. South Missouri has considerable public land and lots of hunting pressure. Information obtained in the north Missouri study would have little value for management in south Missouri.

I would submit to you that studying the problem will not help for the here and now. MDC has only one tool in their box for the here and now and that is regulating hunting. They donít want to alter seasons and limits. They would rather study the problem than take any action on regulations. I truly believe that they are stalling to wait on a series of good hatches. In the mean time, the turkey numbers grow lower.

I would submit the bobwhite quail as a species that had a similar population trajectory. The bobwhite quail population began a decline a number of years ago. MDC kept hunting regulations the same and began studying the problem. They embarked on a department wide quail emphasis program. It was centered on quail restoration and habitat management. It failed miserably in much of the state. It has been 6 years since I have heard a bobwhite calling. The same quail season and limit before the decline remain in effect to this day.

I cannot see how Missouri would have ever been successful in restoring whitetail deer and wild turkey using the same regulation logic as they now use. The turkey situation that we find ourselves in now requires bold action. Restricting turkey hunting is the only viable option that MDC has right now.

On two different occasions I have suggested regulation changes for turkey hunting to MDC. They will not hear what the public is telling them about regulations. Offering up lame excuses for the turkey decline is not helpful. MDC touts its scientific management of wildlife, but sometimes science is not common sense. Waiting on the studies could be too late. It is time to change turkey hunting regulations and search for a solution to the turkey decline.

John Pratt

Conservation Agent Retired, 38 years