By Larry Dablemont
There is only one answer to bringing wild turkeys back to the numbers seen many years ago! Hunters will have to do it! The Missouri Department of Conservation is too inept now to do much of anything but cut timber. And cutting back on turkey seasons and bag limits and eliminating the senseless “youth season” will cost them money. They will do nothing to cost themselves money. But if we can organize a large number of turkey hunters, we can make them do some things to help the numbers increase, which would be the first time that has happened in more than ten years.
Since we are not capable of reducing predators on a massive scale, and we can’t do anything without changing weather patterns and a half dozen other factors, then hunters are going to have to take the bull by the horns to force needed changes in the hunting seasons and regulations.
Here is a plan that will work, and it needs to be done now, because hunting seasons and the two-bird limit that worked fine once, are no longer working to allow a successful breeding season. That is because the habits of the wild turkey have changed. THEY MATE LATER!
A. Set up a season that will begin one week or ten days later than what we had this year and in years past! Give wild turkeys more time to breed and bring off successful nests! Do what allows more gobblers to be here longer and allow more hens to lay more eggs.
B. Eliminate the “weekend of the poacher”… known as the “youth season”. When there were lots of turkeys, that season didn’t have the impact it has now. If you want to argue that it is a great thing to bring fathers and kids together, then schedule it for the first weekend after the regular season. Let’s hear the arguments against that idea. Youth season gives poachers a chance to take 3 gobblers each spring. It most often involves pre-made blinds like little sheds, corn for bait, beginning as early as January, decoys, hens killed accidentally and conservation agents turning their heads and letting it all happen. Sometimes 3 and 4 year old kids check gobblers. My dad started hunting with me when I was very young. I carried no guns until we had hunted together for years and I had been taught well. My youth seasons involved rabbits and squirrels and then as I grew older, quail and ducks. That “youth season” mentality would have given my dad a good laugh back then. It needs to be done away with. In the case of deer, it can’t hurt anything because we have so many deer. But with wild turkey, it is becoming a major problem.
C. End the fall season! If you hear someone who claims to be a biologist say a fall season has no affect, they need to get out in the woods more. Look at the kill numbers over past fall seasons. I think that will tell anyone the real affect of the fall season. Taking away ANY number of gobblers, jakes and hens in October definitely affects spring breeding numbers to some extent.
D. Outlaw the use of decoys. Any hunter that uses a decoy should wear a shirt during the season saying, “I am not a very good turkey hunter or I wouldn’t need a decoy.” Next week with photos, I will show you a new way of hunting that will be a big thing in the future if it is allowed too continue.
This past year, if the season had opened on April 25 instead of April 18 we would have had perhaps as many as 30 percent more poults this summer than we are going to have. The MDC’s lady turkey biologist, Reina Tyl, hired in order to increase employee diversity, said back in the winter that there was a better percentage of young turkeys coming out of the summer of 21. That was about the dumbest thing they ever put forward. After traveling around during late winter, counting wild turkeys I can assure there was a decline in the overall picture here in the Ozarks. No one can tell you what we will have this season until the year is nearly over. I will tell you that number in January, and you cannot get a handle on it until November or later.
Because we have a conservation department so afraid of losing revenue if they cause fewer tags to be sold by restricting the season, I figure they will only do something about this situation if they begin to lose money. Losing wild gobblers does not mean much.
If you don’t believe me, consider this…the 2022 harvest was 31 thousand gobblers… lowest in years and years, by the thousands. In next weeks column I will show you what has been happening in numbers that have been kept track of, and I will give all of you hunters who know what is happening with the wild turkey a route to take where your voice can be heard. It involves no money.
I want you to be sure and read next week’s column and spread it to other hunters like you and me. It is an answer that can change the season next year, only because it will cost the MDC money to continue as they have been. There are some facts and figures you need to know, and if we can get several hundred, or several thousands of hunters to join in, we can, in only two seasons, see an increase in the number of wild gobblers throughout the Midwest.
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