MDC forecasts challenging spring turkey hunting season

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Missouri turkey hunters can expect a challenging spring season according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). The spring turkey hunting season starts with a youth-only weekend April 4 and 5 followed by the regular spring season April 20 through May 10.

MDC Turkey Biologist Reina Tyl expects spring turkey hunting to be challenging.

“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 two-year-old gobblers on the landscape,” Tyl said. “These young gobblers are not associated with hens as often as older, more dominant birds and are the most likely to respond to hunters’ calls.”

Poor production statewide during 2018 will result in fewer two-year-old gobblers available for harvest during this year’s spring hunting season. Tyl added that in 2018, the best production at the regional scale occurred in the northern half of the state. This could potentially translate to relatively more two-year-old gobblers on the landscape north of the Missouri River.

Considering the prospects for the 2020 spring season, hunters should be prepared to put in a bit more effort to be successful this year.

“When turkey numbers are down, it becomes even more important to spend time scouting for flocks before the start of the season,” said Tyl. “Hunters should get out to their hunting areas as much as possible to listen for birds gobbling at daybreak.”

Tyl noted that hunters should also take the time to learn where turkeys are spending most of their time after they fly down from the roost.

“Use binoculars to spot turkeys feeding in open areas or look for signs of where turkeys have been feeding in the timber,” she said. “This will help hunters be in the right area when the hunting season gets here.”

Although the prospects for this year’s spring season aren’t encouraging, this isn’t the first-time poor turkey production has reduced turkey numbers in Missouri. After reaching a population peak in the early-to-mid 2000s, Missouri’s turkey population experienced four years of poor production from 2007–2010, causing the population to decline. However, Tyl noted that turkey numbers rebounded following several years of improved production.

“In much of the state, we observed improved production during 2011, 2012, and 2014,” said Tyl. “As a result, turkey numbers increased, and hunters generally had better hunting seasons in the years that followed.”

“We are again in a period of poor production and lower turkey abundance,” said Tyl. “We can expect to see the effects on harvest for several years until production improves and turkey numbers rebound.”

Get more information

Get detailed information on spring turkey hunting from MDC’s 2020 Spring Turkey Hunting Regulations and Information booklet, available from MDC offices and nature centers, other places where permits are sold, and online at

For more information about spring turkey hunting, visit MDC’s website at

Hunter safety

Tyl stressed that hunters can easily avoid the main cause of turkey-hunting incidents —mistaking or being mistaken by another hunter for wild game.

“Each year, most turkey hunting incidents typically involve hunters who fail to identify their targets,” said Tyl. “Unless you are certain that what you’re looking at is a wild turkey, remember that any movement you see or any sounds you hear while you’re hunting could be another hunter.”

She also advised hunters to wear some hunter-orange clothing when moving through the woods or fields, particularly when hunting public land.

“Bringing along an orange hat or vest is an easy way to stay safe”, said Tyl. “Wear one when you’re moving and put it away when you sit down to work a bird.”

Tyl also noted that many turkey hunting incidents involve members of the same hunting party.

“If you’re hunting with someone else and you split up, be certain you know where your hunting partner will be at all times,” she advised.

Brag a bit

MDC hunting certificates are great ways to memorialize a hunter’s first turkey harvest. To create free MDC commemorative certificates, go online to

Hunters can share photos of their harvests through MDC’s Hunting Bragging Board by using #mdcbragboard when posting pictures to their social media accounts. Learn more at