Wild turkey numbers up, fall and spring hunting prospects bright

News from the region
Published Date

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.–Results of the Missouri Department of Conservation’s annual wild-turkey brood survey are in, and the news is good, especially in the northern half of the state.


Each summer, citizen volunteers and Conservation Department staff record the number of wild turkey hens and recently hatched turkeys they see. This year’s wild-turkey brood survey showed strong reproduction, bolstering gains posted in 2011 and 2012.

Resource Scientist Jason Isabelle, the Conservation Department’s turkey program leader, tallies the number of young turkeys, called poults, seen by observers. Then he divides this number by the number of hens reported. The resulting poult-to-hen ratio is a good measure of turkey nest success and poult survival.


From 2007 through 2010, the statewide poult-to-hen ratio ranged from 1.0 to 1.2, well below the long-term average. This year’s survey showed a ratio of 1.7. That is 21 percent and 26 percent greater than the past 5 and 10-year averages, respectively, and the same as the past 20-year average.


“This year’s numbers are encouraging,” says Isabelle. “This is the third time in four years we have seen a statewide ratio of 1.7 poults per hen. The exception was last year, when we had a late spring coupled with heavy rainfall during the critical incubation period.”

Northeastern Missouri had the best news this year, with a ratio of two poults per hen. Northwestern Missouri was close behind with a ratio of 1.9. The lowest poult-to-hen ratios were reported in the western Ozarks (1.3), in western prairie counties (1.4), and the Mississippi Lowlands (1.5). The rest of the state was near or above the 20-year average.


Isabelle says the strong showing of turkeys in northern Missouri is very heartening, because that area was most affected by the downturn in turkey reproduction that began in the early 2000s.


“Naturally, we are thrilled to see the turkey flock in northern Missouri showing signs of a rebound,” says Isabelle. “I’m hoping we can continue to build on the kind of production we saw this year, particularly in those regions. This year’s poult-to-hen ratios were higher than last year’s in eight of nine turkey-production regions, and the statewide ratio was up 31 percent compared to last year. That will translate into more turkeys in the woods for the fall hunting season.”


Perhaps more significant to the majority of turkey hunters is what three years of strong turkey reproduction portends for future spring seasons.


“Although this year’s hatch won’t have too much of an effect on next year’s spring harvest, it will result in an abundance of 2-year-old gobblers during the 2016 season,” says Isabelle. Couple that with carry-over from previous years of improved production, and Missouri hunters have quite a bit to be excited about right now.”


Results of the 2014 wild turkey brood survey are available at mdc.mo.gov/node/29159. Details about fall turkey hunting regulations are found in the 2014 Fall Deer & Turkey Hunting Regulations & Information booklet. It is available wherever hunting permits are sold or online at mdc.mo.gov/node/131.