MDC Predicts Rough Turkey Season

JEFFERSON CITY — With fall firearms turkey season running Oct. 1-31, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) advises hunters it could be a challenging season.
This year’s annual wild-turkey brood-survey shows statewide turkey production was below average likely due to a combination of poor nesting success and low poult survival from strong storms during spring and early summer.
MDC Turkey Biologist Jason Isabelle indicated that the rainfall and flooding experienced this year negatively impacted turkey production.
“We undoubtedly lost quite a few nests to flooding this year,” said Isabelle. “Even for the nests that escaped the high water, hens that are wet during incubation give off more odor than they do when they’re dry, which increases their chance of being located by a predator.”
“We did have a powerful storm roll through the northern part of the state in late June when poults were still fairly vulnerable,” said Isabelle. “Although we tend to focus on the frequency of rain events and monthly totals, we can’t discount the effects of a single strong storm that comes at just the wrong time for poults.”
Each summer, as part of the state’s wild turkey brood survey, MDC staff and citizen volunteers record the number of hens and recently hatched turkeys they see, which are called poults. These observations are then tallied to determine the success of the hatch, which is most often reported as a poult-to-hen ratio, or simply the average number of poults per hen observed during the survey. Isabelle explained that the poult-to-hen ratio is a good measure of nesting success and poult survival.
“Each year, thousands of citizens participate in the survey and we are grateful for their contribution,” Isabelle said. “During the three-month survey, participants typically report sightings of 60,000-80,000 turkeys, which is a testament to the large number of dedicated volunteers that take time to participate in the survey each year.”
This year’s statewide poult-to-hen ratio was 0.8, which was the same as the 2016 ratio and 43% less than the previous five-year average. Regionally, poult-to-hen ratios this year ranged from 0.6 in the Ozarks West and West Prairie turkey productivity regions to 1.3 in the Northwest region .
“Having fewer young birds on the landscape this year will likely result in hunters having to put forth more effort to be successful. This will be especially true in areas that experience good acorn production,” he said.
“When we have a good acorn year, turkeys aren’t spending as much time in open fields where they’re very visible to hunters,” said Isabelle. “Couple that with restricted movements due to an abundant food supply in the woods, and the effects on the overall harvest can be substantial, particularly in the Ozarks.”
Results of the 2017 wild turkey brood survey are available at http://bit.ly/2fCu2vL.

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