The Missouri Formula for Turkeys
suggested that most turkey reproduction occurred during the first two weeks of April, often considered the first peak of gobbling activity. We purposely do not hunt gobblers during this initial period of the breeding activity. The season opening date, which is the Monday closest to April 20, was set in 1960. It was established to accord with the later breeding and nesting period of turkeys in the Missouri Ozarks.
- 1960 - First modern day spring season, 3 days in 14 south Missouri counties, 1 bird bag and season limit
- 1963 - Season length increased to 4 days
- 1966 - Season length increased to 5 days
- 1967 - Season length increased to 7 days
- 1970 - Rules change to allow hunters to harvest a male turkey or turkey with a visible beard enacted. Before this, only male turkeys were legal game
- 1971 - Season length increased to 11 days
- 1972 - Season length increased to 14 days
- 1973 - Bag limit increased to 2 birds
- 1974-75 - Bag limit reduced to 1 bird due to poor hatch in 1973
- 1976 - Bag limit increased to 2 birds, but only 1 per week
- 1985 - All 114 counties opened to spring turkey hunting
- 1998 - Spring turkey season length extended to 3 weeks, and 2 birds could be taken on consecutive days during second and third weeks
- 2001 - First youth season established
Timing the season the way we do gives hunters good opportunities to call and bag gobbling birds, while ensuring that most hens are bred. An earlier opener would make gobblers more vulnerable to harvest and leave a portion of hens unbred. Over time, this could impact reproductive rates and lead to reduced turkey populations.
Opening turkey season on a Monday and limiting harvest to one bird the first week reduces interference rates among hunters. Currently, more than 80 percent of spring turkey hunters report little or no interference from other hunters. Our current three-week season further reduces daily hunting pressure because it encompasses three weeks instead of two.
About 12 percent of hunting trips and 19 percent of harvest occurs on opening day. Hunters take about 8 to 10 percent of their trips on weekends. That's also when about 7 to 9 percent of the harvest occurs. About 67 percent of harvest occurs the during the first week, but only 5 to 8 percent of hunters take two birds. Therefore, hunting pressure tends to be light during the second and third weeks.