Missouri turkey hunters can expect a more challenging spring season overall, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
The spring turkey hunting season starts with a youth-only weekend April 7-8. The regular spring season runs April 16-May 6.
MDC officials said although the good hatches of 2011, 2012 and 2014 helped bolster turkey numbers in much of Missouri from a low point during the late 2000s, poor production in recent years will make for a more challenging 2018 spring turkey season.
"A great deal of what makes for a good spring turkey season depends on the hatch two years prior because it affects the number of 2-year-old gobblers on the landscape," MDC Turkey Biologist Jason Isabelle said in a news release. "Young gobblers are not associated with hens as often as older dominate birds and are more likely to respond to hunters' calls."
Unfortunately, Isabelle noted, poor production throughout the state during 2016 will result in fewer 2-year-old turkeys during this year's spring hunting season. Isabelle also said last year's poor hatch will result in fewer jakes, or 1-year-old male turkeys, especially in southern Missouri where turkey production was the poorest.
Because most hunters prefer to harvest adult gobblers, Isabelle added, the effects of last year's hatch won't have as much of an effect on the 2018 harvest total as it will during next year's season.
"When turkey numbers are down, it becomes even more important to do your homework," Isabelle said. "Hunters should get out to their hunting areas as much as possible before the season to listen for birds gobbling at daybreak."
Isabelle said these fluctuations in turkey production and population numbers are a normal part of the dynamics of the population.
"With a couple years of good production, turkey numbers will rebound," he said.
Detailed information on harvest limits, allowed hunting methods, hunter education requirements, permits, MDC hunting areas, tagging and checking procedures, regulations, and more is available in MDC's 2018 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet at MDC offices and nature centers, other places where permits are sold, and at bit.ly/2tL5SWa. For more information about spring turkey hunting, visit MDC's website at bit.ly/2mVaDnK.