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Fewer turkeys harvested due to turkey population drop

Posted on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 8:57 am

Local hunters in Pike County bagged only 388 turkeys this season, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Local conservation agent Mike Christensen said that he would describe Pike County’s harvest totals as “low.”
Preliminary data from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) shows that turkey hunters checked 39,239 birds during Missouri’s 2017 regular spring turkey season April 17 through May 7. Top harvest counties were Franklin with 933 birds checked, Texas with 843, and Callaway with 697. Young turkey hunters harvested 4,100 birds during the 2017 spring youth season, April 8-9, bringing the overall 2017 spring turkey harvest to 43,339.
“The statewide turkey population is down and every year it seems like fewer and fewer turkeys are harvested,” Christensen said. The local conservation agent said he acknowledges that Pike County’s turkey population also in a state of decline.
“It could be a combination of things,” Christensen said. “It could be that we have had some cold, rainy springs which make it hard for turkeys to nest and hatch their young successfully. It could also be that we are seeing more ground predators that will come in and destroy a nest or kill the youth once they are hatched.”
MDC Turkey Biologist Jason Isabelle echoed Christensen’s concerns regarding the decline in turkey population. In a statement to local media, Isabelle said, “Given that we haven’t had good hatches the past couple years, and the less-than-ideal weather during a considerable portion of this year’s season, the drop in harvest compared to last year was not unexpected.”
One other area of concern, Christensen said, was the possibility that an unknown disease was killing turkeys in the state.
“I know that there is a research study going on right now,” Christensen said. According to Christensen, the research study is extensive and researchers are currently working to track numerous turkeys in each region of the state.
Despite the declining turkey population numbers, Christensen said he did not anticipate the state making any signficiant changes regarding turkey hunting regulations until after the statewide research study is completed.