Yesterday I had occasion to look at my calendar for next week, and I saw there that spring turkey season opens on Monday, April 16. I’ve been waiting for it, especially with the rapid onset of spring this year, but seeing that it is next Monday caught me a bit off-guard. It’s time to buy that permit, screw the tight choke tube into the shotgun and locate the camouflage clothing, turkey loads, calls and bug spray.
I’ve been thinking of whether or not to go on opening day. I always seem to take my turkey toward the end of the second week of the season. Does that mean that I can wait until then to go, or is that series of earlier, unsuccessful hunts a prerequisite for my later success – paying my dues? My last two gobbler harvests came at about 11 a.m. Does that mean that I don’t need to get into the woods before dawn? All things considered, I think I’ll be getting up around 5 a.m. next Monday to be in the woods before daybreak on opening day. Sunrise in Jefferson City is at 6:31 a.m. on opening day, but you’ll need to adjust that time for locations east or west of Jefferson City. See page 5 of the spring turkey hunting booklet for details.
Even if I don’t have early success this year, I’ll get to hear the whip-poor-wills calling in the dark, see the woods come alive each morning and enjoy the blooming spring wildflowers. I’ll feel the familiar heft of my shotgun again when there’s the real possibility of using it. That’s worth a lot in itself, and the turkey hunting is a great reason to put myself in position for those other experiences.
Youth hunters had a large harvest during the youth season on March 31 and April 1. Enjoying sunny, warm temperatures, youth hunters harvested 4,319 birds, of which 58.5 percent were adult gobblers, 40 percent were juvenile gobblers and 1.5 percent were bearded hens. It will be interesting to see the numbers from this coming season, given that we’ve had such a warm, early spring so far and the vegetation is almost fully leafed out. Juvenile birds should be more plentiful this year due to turkeys having their best hatch in several years last spring. Male birds from last year’s hatch are jakes now. We expect the number of mature gobblers to be similar to what hunters encountered last spring. If we can manage to get another good hatch this spring, we’ll be in good shape for getting more adult gobblers into the pipeline for future spring hunting seasons.